IT will be a mark of a maturing democracy in Zambia if the peaceful atmosphere in Mpongwe and Livingstone continues as the electorate in the two constituencies cast their votes in the February 28 by-elections.
Indications so far point to the fact that peace will prevail even after elections if only participating parties stick to their commitment they made during the first briefing after the filing of nominations.
However, it is important to digest the remarks by the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) that political parties should conduct peaceful campaigns.
SACCORD communications officer Obby Chibuluma has thus urged law enforcement agencies to curb electoral violence and malpractices during the by-elections.
The Zambia Police Service has deployed sufficient officers who are patrolling the areas and ensuring that law and order is maintained.
We hope that even as the campaigns get heated, party members and the electorate will remain peaceful and allow reason and logic to take centre-stage.
The by-elections would provide yet another yardstick with which participating political parties would gauge their strength on the Zambia political landscape. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason to resort to name-calling or violence.
Opposition political parties and the ruling PF have gone full throttle to sell their candidates and programmes to ensure a positive result.
The campaigns have been gruelling.
PF candidate Gabriel Namulambe, Miniver Mtesa of the MMD, Kenny Kuveya of UNIP, UPND's Rabson Chilufya and Raphael Ndlobvu of the National revolution Party (NAREP) are all confident of scooping the seat in Mpongwe.
In Livingstone, Lawrence Evans of PF will face UPND's Regina Musokotwane, Goodson Mwanang'ombe of UNIP, and MMD's Fred Siasuntwe all of whom have pledged peaceful campaigns.
Yes, the two by-elections would act as reliable barometer which would give political direction for both the ruling party and the opposition.
It is important to look at previous by-elections particularly the most rest poll results in June last year in Livingstone Central, Muchinga in Serenje District and Chama North in Chama District of the new Muchinga Province.
Out of the three seats that were in the opposition hands, the PF managed to grab the Chama North, the MMD retained Muchinga while the UPND also recaptured the Livingstone Central seat.
In Livingstone Central Parliamentary by-elections at the time, UPND's Howard Sikwela polled 11,979 against PF's Joseph Akafumba who managed 8,318 ballots.
Stephen Zulu, an independent candidate, polled 119 votes while another independent candidate Joseph Mwanza polled 95 and Zondhwayo Soko managed a paltry 39 votes.
In Muchinga polls, Howard Kunda of MMD polled 3,419 against his closest rival Jeliaty Ntembwa of the ruling party who got 3,023 while National Restoration Party candidate Kenneth Ngosa only managed 168.
A total of 6,715 ballots were cast and about 105 were rejected in the constituency which has 15,996 registered voters.
In Chama North, PF candidate January Zimba emerged victorious with 6,650 votes, defeating MMD's outspoken cadre Yotam Mtayachalo who polled 2,560 votes.
The PF also scooped the Muchinga, Manthepa, Chisunga and Bazimu wards in the local government by-elections held in Chama North and Chama South.
MMD scooped the Sisinje and Msandire wards in the local government by-elections in Chipata while the PF scooped Taferansoni ward in Chadiza.
From this pattern, the PF increased its tally in the House while the MMD lost a Member of Parliament(MP).
The UPND remained static but held on to the Southern Province seat where the party enjoys support.
However, an ideal situation for UPND would have been to emerge winner outside Southern Province as a considerable measure of making in-roads.
This was not the case!
MMD's support has waned going by the crushing defeat in its own stronghold in Eastern Province in February last year when former Cabinet minister in the fallen Rupiah Banda administration Peter Daka went down to PF's Colonel Joseph Lungu in Msanzala in a by-election.
The foregoing, the political complexion favours the PF while dominance for UPND in Southern Province has never been shaken.
Will the situation change this time around?
All the participating political parties would have to work hard in the by-elections in selling their candidates and party programmes.
This is the time for a political party to etch its footprint on the scene and prove popularity.
MMD has 50 MPs in the House, UPND 29, Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) has one member so has the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD).
The PF has 65 MPs, the highest in the House which also has two Independent members.
Therefore let there be peace; peace must continue.