By Prince Bill M. Kaping’a Political/Social Analyst
After suffering shock defeat in the August 2021 general elections, PF is at least consoled, in what Republican Vice President Mutale Nalumango aptly refers to as, ‘retaining’ their seats in Eastern province in the recently held by-elections. PF leaders were of course quick to pop the champagne and pat themselves on their backs as they reveled in this sweet victory!
While congratulating her team for winning the elections, as if she’s the Alfa and the Omega, FDD leader Edith Nawakwi charged that President Hakainde Hichilema will only rule for one term; further accusing him of winning the August elections by fluke!
And speaking after Dr. Mwanza was declared winner, PF Central Committee Member in charge of Information and Publicity Rapheal Nakachinda claimed the victory is the beginning of UPND losing the 2026 general elections.
Widely respected scholar Sishuwa Sishuwa equally shared his views in his article aptly titled, “Why the PF won the Kaumbwe parliamentary election.” He argued that the PF’s campaign message of ethnic marginalisation proved effective or found fertile ground in Kaumbwe. Sishuwa further observed that the other reason why PF secured the Kaumbwe parliamentary seat is that the constituency has been a stronghold of the former ruling party for some time now.
He went on to state that the UPND had a poor or ineffective campaign strategy in Kaumbwe built around party chairperson for elections Gary Nkombo, a non-Easterner, and opportunistic PF members such as Peter Daka and Moses Mawere. He concluded by emphasizing that the PF did a good job identifying a candidate who commanded greater grassroots support and had established a lot of community projects in the area.
While we may concur with Sishuwa’s assumptions in a certain way, it’s also important to delve into the annals of recent history to better understand the systematic voting patterns in the region. This would definitely help us better understand why PF managed to pull this one off.
During the much-anticipated 1991 general elections when the nation rejected the one-party rule and instead opted to settle for multiparty politics, final results gave the MMD 125 seats, with UNIP winning the remaining 25. Out of these, UNIP retained all the 19 parliamentary seats in Eastern province, managing to salvage the remaining 6 seats in selected parts of the country.
Fast forward 1996 when the Chiluba regime tampered with the constitution to bar UNIP leader, Dr. Kenneth D. Kaunda, from participating in the elections due to the parentage clause, the party would commit political suicide by boycotting the polls! With UNIP out of the race, MMD would easily amass131 parliamentary seats countrywide, leaving 3 other political parties and Independents to share the remaining 19 seats amongst themselves.
And by 2001 when the electorate trooped back to the polls, MMD’s lion’s share of seats would be reduced to a paltry 69 seats; thanks to the baby born with teeth in the mouth, the UPND which would wrestle impressive 49 slots! By this time, UNIP had long awakened from slumber, managing to re-claim 13 seats in its traditional stronghold of Eastern province.
However, during the 2006 elections, UNIP would go into an alliance with other political parties in an attempt to improve its fortunes. MMD would completely annihilate UNIP in the Eastern block and proceed to thump other opposition political parties; confining the likes of PF to Northern, Luapula, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces and UPND to Western, Southern and Central provinces and Copperbelt rural.
During the 2011 scintillating general elections that would see MMD being deposed from power, PF would comfortably bag 60 seats in Northern, Copperbelt, Luapula and Lusaka provinces, while MMD would retain 55 seats in Eastern, Luapula and Northern provinces. UPND would manage to win 28 seats in Southern, North western and Western provinces and Copperbelt rural.
With the country very much polarized due to tribal rhetoric spewed by reckless and selfish politicians, the 2016 general elections would reveal a country divided into two regions – much of north-east regions would go to PF, while south-west would go to UPND.
And by the time elections were held in 2021, the political terrain would remain pretty much the same; save for the UPND penetrating into hitherto PF strongholds, claiming victory in urbanized provinces such as Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces. The party would equally perform well at the Presidential level in some parts of northern and eastern regions although the party would lose lamentably at parliamentary level due to floating unpopular candidates.
Is it therefore correct to insinuate that a win for PF in Eastern province is simply a harbinger for better things to come for the former ruling party, while a loss for ruling UPND entails a quick departure from State House come 2026?Wrong!
If you referred back to our history, you would appreciate that Eastern province remained loyal to UNIP for a long time even as other regions were hankering for change. There’s actually a shared belief that it actually took years for those in rural areas to realize that KK had long been extracted from power! And finally, when people got fed up of MMD and chose to eject the same from power, easterners would stick with MMD for a while. It’s hardly surprising that ba kumawa have elected to continue flirting with PF even the rest of the country is embracing change as demonstrated by the results from by-elections held in different parts of the country at the same time.
You got to respect Easterners for who they are. They are a highly conservative lot, not easily moved by ‘ichimwela.’ Once the UPND starts delivering to their satisfaction, particularly in the agriculture sector, the entire province including Petauke where Lungu supposedly hails from would have switched camp pronto! Watch this space!