By McDonald Chipenzi
BY-ELECTIONS vs. POLITICAL PARTIES’ PERFORMANCE
Many people have resented the by-elections describing them as a drain in the national treasury and must be done away with.
In my view and contra opinion has been that by elections, if well managed and genuinely occasioned, are a necessary evil in any functional electoral democracy like ours.
They help test the electoral perceptions, strategies, electorates and political moods, dynamics and trends for the political parties, electoral management bodies, media and CSOs to take note ahead of a major election.
In the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, by-elections help test the new strategies of holding elections in the new normal and help document best and discard bad practices.
By-elections, regardless of the underlaying malpractice and irregularities, help electoral stakeholders appreciate the fact that electoral preferences for political parties do not remain statistic in any given electoral cycle.
Electoral preference potentially change, most often, after a winner is declared and new government formed and is towards the winning/ruling party until up to the next general election.
Even staunch strongholds of political parties tend to shift to the winning team, the case of Eastern and Northern Provinces for MMD shifting to PF now ruling after 2011.
This trend may reoccur once another party assumes power after the PF. The shift will be visible in the second election of that new ruling party.
With regards the just ended ward by-election results, the probable reason for the ruling party’s good performance is the desire by the electorate in those areas to associate themselves with the ruling party.
This may change in a general election as there will be no ruling party then, no much distribution of electoral philanthropies, electoral blackmail etc.
This is why the results of ward by-elections across the country held on Thursday 30.07.2020 were as follows if allocated cumulatively to the major parties that participated;PF 7,979 and UPND 7, 499 giving a difference of 480 votes apart in favour of the ruling party.
This means that both parties still have a lot of work to do between now and the election date of Thursday 12 August 2021 to confidently brag of bagging a 50%+1 winning vote in 2021.
Without these by-elections and participation of some of these political parties, the country would not have generated itself into a debate on who is more popular between the two major parties.
Therefore, by-elections are a necessary evil and participation in them is key ingredients for the building of a functional electoral democracy in Zambia.