POLITICAL parties, cadres and the electorate have taken the way by-elections are supposed to be conducted to a high level.
The April 14, 2015 by-elections held in three parliamentary constituencies, three provinces, and several council wards in various provinces, were conducted with a difference.
In more aspects than one, there is a departure from the past, on how by-elections are supposed to be conducted, and all participating parties should be commended for that.
From the time the respective seats were declared vacant right to the declaration of the winners, peace and tranquility characterised the constituencies and the wards in which the elections were held.
There have been some reports of “foot soldiers” from two or three competing political parties that met in the field campaigning and all they did was to wish each other good luck with the elections.
Previously, such meetings could have resulted in catastrophe because competing cadres could not see eye-to-eye but that has changed.
If this is the sign of how the 2016 general elections will be conducted, then the country is making progress in growing its hard-earned democracy.
For instance, despite five political parties having participated in the Chawama parliamentary by-election in Lusaka, each political party went about its campaigns without any major violent incidences or skirmishes.
The cadres, political leaders and other players in the contest seem to have realised that there is life after any by-election and their promotion of co-existence is cardinal.
Special commendation should go to the Patriotic Front (PF) leadership not because the party won but because a ruling party is always key to the maintenance of peace and stability during such events.
Previously, the conduct of ruling parties, past and present, had triggered violent acts.
Tendencies like the use of Government resources and the perceived biased administration of the Public Order Act (POA) had been the major sources of differences between any ruling party and the opposition.
Not so long ago, reports of opposition political party cadres “impounding” suspected Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) motor vehicles being used in campaigns were bound.
The PF, however, seems to have painstakingly adhered to the electoral regulations, otherwise the nation could have heard complaints from the opposition leaders against the ruling party. This is, in our view, as it should be.
Then there is the issue of the privilege enjoyed by the Republican President vis-à-vis the implementation of the POA, which was open to abuse before.
The privilege could be used to deny other political parties to have campaign meetings on some days “because the President will be in the same area.”
That was not witnessed in the just-ended by-elections, at least if a lack of complaints from the opposition parties is anything to go by!
The common enemy that, however, remains to be fought by both the ruling party and the opposition is the evident apathy among the electorate, which is seemingly growing by the day.
This should be fought by all parties without apportioning the blame because they all have a responsibility to motivate would-be voters to go and vote.
Otherwise, if only one political party is left to trigger off potential voters to vote, it will attract only its sympathisers.
Other efforts, though, should be spent on researching on the possible causes of the apathy – that is if it is apathy at all! Apathy can loosely be defined as a complete lack of emotion or motivation, directed towards a person or activity and, in this case, towards voting.
Therefore, there could be other good reasons, like increased mobility of citizens, why people do not turn out to vote.
Credit-Times of Zambia by Davies M.M Chanda