By Sakwiba Sikota
The nomination date for the Presidential elections has been set for sixth June 2016. The excitement levels amongst political parties is starting to heat up. Soon we will be separating the women from the girls.
Some politicians have been heard complaining that the requirement to have one thousand registered voters for a presidential candidate to successfully get themselves on the ballot box, is oppressive and makes it hard for some people to contest the election.
One wonders why a person who cannot get a hundred voters from each of the ten provinces should be allowed to run in the first place. This is not a particularly difficult hurdle for any serious political presidential aspirant.
I remember in 1996 we had someone stand on the Movement for Democratic Process Party ticket for Republican President. There was drama at the High Court as President Chama Chakomboka of the Movement for Democratic Process turned up with a handful of supporters and failed to raise the then requirement of two hundred registered voters to support his nomination. Cool as you like President Chakomboka said the hiccup that morning was due to the transporter he had arranged letting him down.
It is said that in order to humor him and the nation at large, Late President Frederic Jacob Titus Chiluba allowed some MMD members to go on an afternoon “loan spell” to the Movement for Democratic Process.
The Zambian voters showed they had a sharp sense of humour by giving Chakomboka votes and making him come in with a respectable 41,471 votes which is more than some presidential aspirants in the 2015 polls managed to garner. Imagine having the distinction of having been bested by an aspirant who managed to get on the ballot paper due to “borrowed” supporters!
Last year in 2015 we saw quite a number of candidates struggle to meet the requirement of two hundred registered voters. It is these strugglers who are sweating the “little ones” over the one thousand supporters watermark.
It is not just in Zambia where there are such requirements for ones name to appear on the ballot box.
Recently in the United States of America for a mere political primary race for the State of Ohio’s primary ballot, not the main event slated for the second Tuesday of November, a Democratic Party candidate by the name of Martin O’Malley failed to secure the support of the required one thousand registered voters in Ohio. The population of Ohio is eleven million people as of 2010, with a very slow growth rate, and this makes it comparable to Zambia’s population which is now estimated at fifteen million people.
Would be candidate Martin O’Malley, the American version of our very own Chama Chakomboka, did not get the good fortune of the humor of FJT as neither Bernie Saunders nor Hilary Clinton felt like showing Chiluban largesse towards Martin O’Malley who consequently did not get his name onto the ballot paper.
This was just as well as it was clear that O’Malley was just a time waster who would unnecessarily run up the administrative costs of holding the primary polls. O’Malley needed 1,000 valid signatures to appear on the 15 March primary ballot. The former Maryland governor’s campaign submitted 1,175 signatures, but only 772 were deemed valid.
What is your reason for running for the highest office in the land? You need to give at least one thousand reasons to run.
One thousand voters is surely a low watermark. If you find it’s too hot in the kitchen, get out of the kitchen and go to the beach or something for a swim. However, If low tide scares you, don’t dare venture onto the beach during high tide.