VOTING in the Mangango by-elections has began and polling stations opened at 06:00 hours this morning.
Campaigns for the by-election officially ended yesterday at 18:00 hours and political parties had marathon campaigns at the weekend to deliver their final messages in this vast rural constituency.
There are six candidates contesting the seat that has been held by the MMD since 1991 when Ricky Tumbila defeated Dominic Shipimbi of UNIP.
The Mangango seat is being contested by :
United National Independence Party ‘s (UNIP) Janet Chingumbe,
PF’s Rodgers Lingweshi,
Godwin Puta for United Party for National Development (UPND),
Mwene Nalawa of Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD)
Movement for Multiparty Democracy’s (MMD) Charles Mwenzala.
However, if the results are to go by the happenings during the campaigns by the participating parties in the run-up to today’s vote, the former ruling party might struggle to retain the seat.
The constituency has seven wards with 17,157 registered voters in 33 polling centres, although voter apathy has characterised past elections with just 44.3 per cent of voting in 2011.
Only three of the seven wards have more than 3,000 registered voters, and leading political parties in the race have clashed in those areas as they try to woo the electorate.
In fact, it was in one of those areas – Namafulo Ward – where UPND Katuba Member of Parliament Jonas Shakafuswa allegedly clashed with some Patriotic Front (PF) officials leading to his arrest at the weekend.
Apart from Namafulo, which has 3,128 registered voters, Shikombwe has the highest number of the electorate at 3,429 while Mangango Ward is second with 3,408 registered voters at its three polling centres.
Both PF candidate Lyambai Lingweshi and his counterpart of the UPND Godwin Putu, who are considered to be frontrunners in today’s race, are former councillors for Mangango Ward.
Mr Putu defeated Mr Lingweshi in 2011 to become councillor for Mangango after the later had served for almost a decade, and today’s race will see them go head-to-head once again for a higher office.
MMD’s Charles Mwenzela is also a former councillor for Kanabilumbi where he served for 13 years although his ward has a relatively smaller number of registered voters.
Also in today’s race is Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) which is fielding Mweene Naluwa, a former teacher while UNIP is hoping to have the first MP in three years by refloating Janet Chingumbe, a former nurse who lost in 2011.
There is also Fourth Revolution Party candidate Mukumbuta Kabuyana who has not hidden his frustration at the lack of support from his party with reports emerging that he had withdrawn when in fact not.
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