10 November 2012

Zambia: Mufumbwe Poll Passes Litmus Test

IN sharp contrast to what has transpired in previous elections in Mufumbwe District in North-Western Province, the just-ended parliamentary by-election has passed largely without any major incident that would give rise to complaints by the losers.

The two main political parties that contested the poll - the ruling Patriotic Front and the opposition Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) - have both accepted that the poll was free and fair, and the result reflected the will of the electorate in Mufumbwe.

It is particularly significant to note that the leader of the opposition MMD, Dr Nevers Mumba, has conceded defeat and congratulated the PF on their victory. This gesture is important, for this type of reaction seldom happens in our country.

The predominant feature of most by-elections are seemingly endless disputes about alleged electoral malpractices such as bribery, suspected manipulation of results and all sorts of allegations which tend to undermine the credibility of the electoral process and the efficacy of the final result.

The general reaction to Thursday's poll has been quite favourable, and once again reaffirms the political parties' confidence in the ability of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to oversee the electoral process in our country.

Periodic elections which take place in any democratic dispensation will invariably produce a winner and a loser. Both the victors and the vanquished have a huge role to play in ensuring that the democratic process functions in a manner that strengthens institutions of governance and lends credibility to the whole electoral process.

Indeed, it is undeniable that democracy would be largely a sham and a total farce if free and fair political competition was stifled through violence, as has happened in Mufumbwe in the past. Election results that are influenced by bribery, corruption and other such vices also undermine democracy because the will of the people can never really manifest under such circumstances.

The Patriotic Front made a number of undertakings to the people on assumption of office, and prominent among these was the party's desire to rid the country of corruption at all levels of governance, and that includes the nefarious activities that have besmirched the electoral process in the past.

In view of the wide acceptance of the election outcome, the Mufumbwe poll has passed the all-important litmus test as it has met the benchmarks of what constitutes a "free and fair" - a big departure from its sordid past that had left an almost indelible blemish.

As Zambia's nascent democracy continues to grow, political players at all levels will increasingly be called upon to exhibit the desired maturity, particularly during periodic elections that characterise every viable democracy.

While applauding the incident-free campaigns in the run-up to the just-ended by-election, we condemn in the strongest terms the ugly manifestation of political violence in Rufunsa in Lusaka Province where a PF cadre was murdered by suspected opposition cadres.

The perpetrators of such violence are political hooligans whose actions should be roundly condemned by all political parties and players, for they have no place in any decent democratic dispensation. All political parties should repudiate violence and expel the deviants guilty of such conduct from their rank and file instead of treating them as heroes.

Police should hunt down the murderers of the PF cadre in Rufunsa, arrest them and ensure they are arraigned in court for the heinous crime. Political goons masquerading as political activists should be caged.

All players across the political divide should condemn the Rufunsa incident without reservations and also restrain their members from using intemperate language and lending support - wittingly or unwittingly - to criminal conduct camouflaged as political activism.

The peaceful campaigns in Mufumbwe should be replicated across the entire country if our countrty's democracy is to win further accolades.

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