Party elections Before General Elections

File: Delegates to the MMD eastern province conference casting their votes for the new leadership.

By Daimone Siulapwa
We are only months away from the general elections, and obviously, all parties should be gearing up themselves in what looks to be closely contested elections.

It is interesting to note that many political parties and other stakeholders are talking of the need to have free and fair elections. This is important, for without a free and fair poll, we might as well adopt another system of governance rather than, democracy, which is about the will of the majority. Of course our democracy is still young, and it will take some time before it can be perfected. After all, even old democracies such that of the United States have their own flaws. Still, that should not stop us from working at perfecting our system.

And one way of doing that is to start by perfecting democracy within the political parties themselves. In other words, we are talking about internal democracy with our various political parties. We want those putting themselves up for national elections to first go through the mill of their respective political parties. We want to see the same level of competition within parties as would normally or is likely to happen in the 2011 general elections.

In that regard, we do not expect some positions to go unchallenged. While there is nothing wrong with the various organs of the party endorsing the incumbent, those who are of a different stand should be given the freedom to clearly state so. The Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) is having its provincial conferences, which will eventually lead up to the national convention. Indications show that the incumbent, Rupiah Banda is unlikely to be challenged, not so much because he has been accepted by all and sundry within the party as the torch bearer, but because they have made it almost look like a major sin to stand against him. The same goes for the position of vice president of the MMD. There are some sections that think just because George Kunda S.C, is the republican vice president, then it is only natural that he gets the party’s number two post. Those who have expressed an interest in the position, such as former party and republican vice president Enock Kavindele, are now being indirectly victimized by the lower organs of the party, This is in itself an affront to democracy. We expect these party elections to be competitive and democratic, just like the big one – the general elections. The same standards that we expect at the general election should be the ones to reflect at party elections. That said, it is good that the MMD, which is the ruling party, has decided to hold its convention, even with all the negative traits so far seen.

But then, question is how about the other parties? Particularly the major ones such as the Patriotic Front (PF), the United Party for National Development (UPND) and to some extent the United Liberal Party (ULP), Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) and United National Independence Party (UNIP).

For a moment, lets us discuss these parties.

The PF, since its formation in 2001, has participated in three major elections. Or rather, its leader Michael Sata has contested the republican presidency three times. And through-out that time, his name has been on the ballot without the official endorsement of the file and rank of the party through a convention. In the meantime, the various positions in the party have been filled and re-filled as Mr Sata has so desired.

How about the UPND? Well, they have had two conventions since being formed. Their current president Hakainde Hichilema succeeded founding president Anderson Mazoka just before the 2006 elections. He has thus contested for the republican presidency twice as UPND leader. Having done that twice, and having failed to capture the big one for the party, is it not just natural that he goes to the rank and file of the party, and seek a new mandate for the 2011 general elections? For true democrats, there are no prizes for guessing.

As for ULP and FDD, we shall not waste much time here other than to ask Sakwiba Sikota and Edith Nawakwi in that order whether they are really happy with the state of their respective parties.

On the other hand, one can sympathise with genuine UNIP members who are concerned at the fast rate their party has been losing its clout. We all know that the boycott of the 1996 elections by UNIP, which made it lose all parliamentary representation, was the beginning of the party’s downfall, but we did not expect it to reach these alarming levels. With representation throughout the country starting at section to ward level, we expect UNIP to be far much better than these upstart political parties, but it is not.

UNIP is a party needing a lot of reforms, and with the resources that it has, thanks to its many properties, we expect it to have re-organised itself by now. But we have a president Tilyenji Kaunda who thinks the party belongs to his father. And yet we all know that no one person is bigger than the organization. Nelson Mandela demonstrated this with the African National Congress (ANC). UNIP needs to divorce itself from the Kaunda shadow by choosing a new crop of leaders with new ideas and far away from the Kaundas when it comes to relations. With a party whose roots are founded on socialist policies, this is a party that can make an appeal to the urban youth with a more vibrant and charismatic leadership. The biggest gift that Dr Kenneth Kaunda can right now give to UNIP is to convince his son to give-up the leadership of the party by organizing a convention where a new leadership can be ushered into office with the mandate of reforming it. It is not late.

That said, one can only hope that by the time of the general elections, all those aspiring for national office would have sought fresh mandates from their respective parties in a democratic, free and fair manner.

Aluta Continua. The struggle continues!


  1. UPND is the only party which is not hold intra-party election, where is democracy we claim to have in our party UPND?? for our party is dead.


  3. You have hit the nail on the head Mr. Siulapwa. The PF, UPND, FDD, UNIP and others eyeing the 2011 Elections must have internal elections to endorse their respective presidential candidates. Some leaders have already lost more than once and one wonders why their parties keep fielding losers.

  4. Democracry is not cheap. Having provincial and national convention cost millions, if not billions of kwacha hence even the larger oppostion parties like PF and UPND cannot afford to hold them systematically. This should in no way mean the leaders in these parties in particular do not have the mandate from the grassroots. It is for this reason that in developed economies the major political parties are funded by the government to ensure an even and democratics playing field.

  5. #4 mr bla bla bla but mr sata has been rejected three times by zambians while mr hichilema has been rejected twice. surely should they be allowed to continue representing these parties when zambians dont want them.

  6. # 4 for understanding this issue we have a tendency of analysis thing we dont fully understand. election in the party need lot resource that why you heard opposition pushing of govt to to be funding political parties. see how the mmd organised it resources after increasing taliffs for zesco, carbon tax and even govt institution funding it openly.

  7. MMD uses taxpayers money to fund its activities while the oppsition depend on mostly its poor members,convetions cost a lot of money as # 4 has correctly observed.However i think the two main opposition parties have tried to democratise their parties especially the UPND

  8. #4 walasa, #6 chilufya was dealt with in the eastern province in the name of conversion, Paul Tembo and others. Others they met even death after that. MMd uses and used GRZ vehicles and other resources for conversions in Mansa and Chipata. The founder is not there in MMD he died otherwise it would have been the same. Mazoka never went for conversion, Sata, Sikota, BY, Miyanda, Ken Ngondo, Kaunda, Chishimba, Cosmo, Milupi, I think because they are founding fathers. Thus, it is just normal in the country by now. even mmd though they go for conversion they don’t meet the real purpose of it, they just go to create enemity and show their imaturity like mulogo-wa-tea, Kate-la-aka-Lumba, and others:-?:-?:-?:-?

  9. ba Sata is a dictator he cant have a democratic convention. himself is the PF-kantemba kabo akakuchitilamo contest ama elections..forget the united lozi party(ULP)

  10. PF will never hold a national convention..UPND has had ..why should they go for one when their mandate hasn’t expired..the rest nibangwele..

  11. I now agree that Zambians forget easily, PF has held 5 provincial conferences so far, so what are you talking about? Only 4 to go before the national convention.

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