Voters voting for the new Republican president at Kaumbwe Polling station in Chipata
FILE: A Woman voting voting for the new Republican president at Kaumbwe Polling station in Chipata

Hangala Siachiwena and Michael Wahman discuss four key factors that could determine the outcome of the 2016 Zambian elections.

On 11 August 2016 Zambians return to the polls. At the elections, voters will elect a president, members of parliament, and local representatives as well as vote in a referendum on an enhanced bill of rights and procedures for future constitutional amendments.

It is only 19 months since Zambia last arranged elections. In fact, it appears like the country has been in a permanent state of political campaigning since the 2015 by-election triggered by the passing of incumbent President Michael Sata.

The by-election was intensely contested by two front-runners: Edgar Lungu of the incumbent Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development’s (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema (popularly referred to as “HH”). Lungu was able to carry last year’s elections with a paper-thin margin of only 27.000 votes.

Zambia’s 2016 presidential election is widely regarded a re-run of that which took place in 2015. At first glance, not much seems to have changed. The two main contenders remain the same and few analysts predict a strong third-party bid.

However, many factors could potentially shift the results from 2015. In this blog post we will concentrate on four especially important factors: the uncertainty of the urban vote, realignment within the main political parties, the inclusion of new voters, and the presence of political violence. These four factors are likely to determine the outcome of the election and will also shed some important light onto some larger debates within African electoral research.

The urban vote

As noted above the PF’s winning margin in 2015 was miniscule. For the opposition the key to winning the election is to identify where to make up for the small PF advantage. HH has picked a running mate, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (popularly referred to as” GBM”), from outside the UPND’s traditional strongholds.

GBM comes from the rural and heavily PF-leaning Northern province. UPND is hoping that their choice of running mate will help them make inroads in the north.

However, the rural vote is generally not anticipated to change drastically from 2015. Instead, the election may well be decided in the urban areas.

In a blog post on the 2015 by-election we wrote specifically about research on the African urban vote. Research shows how African incumbent parties have traditionally had a hard time holding on to their urban support.

In Zambia, this was very much the case with the former ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). MMD went from being a dominant force in the cities in 1991 to becoming an almost exclusively rural party in the 2011 election. In last year’s by-election PF held on to both urban provinces, Lusaka and Copperbelt.

However, UPND increased its vote share from 11 to 36% in Lusaka and from 4 to 24% in Copperbelt.

The importance of the urban vote is manifested by the political parties’ frequent campaigning in the cities. For UPND to carry the election they will need to increase their support in Lusaka and the Copperbelt, especially given the increased number of registered voters in both these two provinces.

Shifting Alignments

Zambian politics is known for ever shifting elite realignments. Such re-alignments create considerable uncertainty.

This election is certainly no exception. The opposition has benefited from important government defections. Hichilema’s running mate, GBM, left PF last year. Some former Sata allies including former Vice President Guy Scott, who campaigned with Lungu in last year’s election, have also joined UPND. However, UPND has also suffered some defections to the rivaling PF.

The former ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) fragmented into two factions after its loss in 2011.

One of the factions is now in alliance with the ruling party and the other with UPND. These defectors are all politicians with national profiles, in addition, it is also likely that similar political realignments are taking place at the local level.

The politics of coalition formation has attracted considerable interest in recent African political science. The ability of the opposition to attract heavyweight government politicians suggests a general perception that the opposition is a viable alternative in this election.

However, the question remaining is how important these realignments will be for electoral outcomes. Will voters follow their locally popular leaders or will they stay loyal to their parties?

 New Voters

Voter turnout in the 2015 presidential election was remarkably low, at only 32%. The turnout was likely affected by the timing of the election (during the rainy season) and the short campaign period. Turnout in 2016 is likely to increase. Moreover, approximately 1.7 million new voters have been added to the voters roll.

The 2015 election was conducted using the 2011 voter register, effectively disenfranchising all voters who had turned 18 after the 2011 election. In this election, these will be able to vote for the first time. Almost half of the new voters are in three of the country’s ten provinces; the Copperbelt and Lusaka (traditionally PF strongholds) and Southern (traditionally a UPND stronghold).

Although the addition of new, mostly young, electorate is crucial it is important to note that research on African youth voters have shown that they are less likely to vote than their older compatriots.

Traditionally the PF has done well among the urban youth by focusing its campaign on issues that resonated with this particular constituency, such as lower taxes, jobs, and the promise of “more money in people’s pockets.” However, whether PF’s popularity among the youth will withstand amid high youth unemployment and deficiencies in the educational system, remains unclear.

Political Violence

Zambia has a reputation for holding relatively peaceful elections. In Strauss and Taylo’s election violence classification of Africa, Zambia qualifies as one of the least violent countries on the continent. Sadly, the 2016 election has seen unprecedented levels of violence and intimidation.

The high levels of violence have overshadowed much of the substantive debate in the electoral campaign. Much violence has been low-scale and not made it into the national press, while other events have been widely covered.

For instance, Lusaka police shot and killed a female UPND protester in July and UPND supporters attacked a parliamentary candidate from fellow opposition party Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) in Namwala (Southern province) earlier in the campaign period.  The high levels of violence prompted the electoral commission to take the radical step of suspending campaigns for 10 days in Lusaka and Namwala.

For scholars interested in the effects of political violence the Zambian election will be an interesting case to observe.
Predominant Theories of election violence suggest that violence can lead to lower voter turnout, while also having a negative effect on the support for perpetrating parties. It will be particularly interesting to observe turnout levels in districts affected by violence.

Hangala Siachiwena is a PhD candidate in Development Studies at the University of Cape Town.
Michael Wahman is Assistant Professor of Political Science at University of Missouri.

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24 COMMENTS

    • Chakolwa Chagwa Chikkala is out! We Zambians are fed up with this mass murderer, mega thief and election rigger. We have said NO to election violence, load shedding, hyperinflation, job losses and looting of national resources. To HELL with Chakolwa!

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    • THE VOTES THAT HH GOT OUTSIDE S PROVINCE AND NW PROVINCE IN 2015 WILL BE GREATLY REDUCED IN FAVOUR OF ECL IN 2016 BECAUSE PEOPLE IN OTHER PROVINCES WERE DISGUSTED BY THE TRIBAL VOTING PARTICULARLY IN SOUTHERN PROVINCE.
      HH WILL LOSE FIRST TIME ROUND AND WILL CRY FOUL BECAUSE HE LIVES IN PERPETUAL DENIAL AND WILL ALSO REALISE THAT GBM IS A VERY BIG LIABILITY LOATHED EVEN MORE IN S PROVINCE.

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  1. What these half baked experts haven’t mentioned is the apathy experienced in PF strong holds in the 2015 elections that led to that insignificant difference. If the apathy continues in PF strongholds UPND is likely to win but if there is a huge turnout in PF strongholds we expect PF to win.

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  2. Good article.

    Tomorrow we have the chance of voting out this incompetent thief called Jamesoni. If not, Zambians will be subjected untold suffering and poverty due to the excessive borrowing and stealing of Zambians future earnings by theses thieves.

    Use your vote! tell chikolwa K23 million is more than enough! He can retire without stealing more!

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  3. Tomorrow marks the end of the last thief,the close ally of chiluba HH in politics. He will never be given another chance to amass Zambian resources.We can’t allow the smart thief twice.Its not possible. HH is retiring tomorrow. He has paid our money in a hardest way.When you steal from someone expect to pay like HH.

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  4. Just look at the latest revelation of HH’s true character in the reports of him displacing poor villagers from their land in his home region of Namwala. These are not only poor but also his tribal relatives
    Also look at the way HH reacted with obscene language and insults at a defenceless journalist.
    Thirdly the experts have ignored to.mention that HH and UPND is largely a tribal party based in Southern province and has not changed.
    Fourth, HH has not been imaginative in decampaigning PF. He is promising to do things which PF has already carried out or carrying out, or intends to carry out.
    Fifth, the GBM factor is overestimated, he is a violent man and does mot have the bemba following that is attributed to him.

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    • Regardless of your rantings, we are voting Chakolwa Chagwa Chikkala out of State House. Chakolwa is a mass murderer, a crypto fascist, a mega looter, an election rigger and an incompetent fumbler. How could he steal K23m in one year and then put his rigging ministers to illegally run govt for 90 days after Parliament was dissolved? Chikkala must go!

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  5. ECL and PF will win this election in the first round. There is no way HH and GBM will beat ECL and Mama Inonge. This is now war against darkness and light. We all know who has seeked the hand of God for asking the nation to pray and nonetheless we all know that the other candidates have been arrogant and have tried to decieve the country in the last our that they are God fearing but really they in really in darkness.
    Zambian’s are not foolish and will vote wisely.
    Vote ECL and not HH
    Vote Inonge and not the wife beater with a fowl mouth GBM

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  6. Yes prices may he high but Zambians know why and most importantly, they don’t even think that HH is a good alternative. He is still seen as a tribalist. That has been the weakness if UPND campaign, they look at prices of mealie meal and think that they have won. They look at job losses and think they will get the votes. No sirs, people have been looking at other things, top of the list is that they still think UPND is a party that only wants a tonga for president. People dint like the UPND for that.

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    • Oh….too late I voted Tonga/Bemba ticket of HH/GBM……!!

      Hope you too have cast your vote on a tribeless pair…. dununa reverse!!

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  7. In 2015 HH and UPND had a head start in their campaign. They entered the campaign arena much earlier having taken advantage of the leadership squabbles in PF. Edgar Lungu and PF lost a lot of time. They only had 15 days in the campaign field. Not enough time to sell their presidential candidate, ECL. ECL has more or less been in the campaign field since he was voted in office in 2015.

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  8. I have already voted with my family for the new government. Continue yapping cadres but I know who I voted for with my family and my neighbour. Let the winner take the day and as usual I will continue with my business. Those bloggers who cry most are the direct beneficiaries from these politicians.

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  9. Just a few minutes left go and vote : ignore Upnd propaganda that pf voting is tomorrow. Voting is today without exception.

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  10. @Buck Teeth animo, your disrespect is the reason every peace-loving Zambia cannot trust you and your loser! Zambians are not stupid! They know what voting for your man can turn out to be in Zambia! You will lose again!

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  11. All losers will wake to a shock, not a shock of their lives though because they have been losing for decades so it will be normal!

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  12. Be civil and civilized as there is no need to insult and see my personal predictions for the top two and come back and tell me later on; 0977531821 .

    MAKING ELECTIONS RESULTS ASSUMPTIONS OR PREDICTIONS AS AN INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST BASED ON MY OWN PERCEPTIONS AND EXPERIENCES ;

    These assumptions are personal , but this is important it was in business and trying to make a decision to stand in an election or preparing for the results as a party , it is always nice to pre-assess yourself . Also that if we have to have a winner in the first round , the best results would as below between the two front runners , expending the other seven (7) parties as follows;

    1. the PF to win need to have at least the following results , as below:

    1. Copperbelt = 60% of the total results…

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  13. The reasons behind the shift in 2016 Election Polls “Clinton vs. Trump” were unclear. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead over Republican rival Donald Trump has occurred since the both parties convention. Clinton had pulled well ahead of Trump on the wheels of the Democratic National Convention last week. But since then Trump had devoted himself in a days-long feud with the family of an American Muslim Soldier killed in Iraq and argued with the Republican Leadership over his comments and leadership turbulence within his campaign. However refocusing on these matters he announced his economic policy advisory team. He is expected to make an economic policy speech and endorse U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan who is seeking his 10th term in Congress.

    Get…

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