By SPECIALIST WRITER -
NOW that we are done with the adoptions and the filing in of nomination papers by qualified aspiring candidates, attention shifts to the actual race of who beats who in the Presidential and General elections slated for August 11, this year.
The general electorate is obviously keeping stock of the promises that all the aspiring candidates are making. Homes, streets and blocks have their ears locked to the ground listening to campaign messages that are meant to inspire them to make that decision on August 11.
As far as the voters are concerned, the onus is on the opposition to take the fight to the ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF). With the unprecedented development projects, the country has seen since the PF came into power, the opposition is facing a champion that is holding on to the heavy weight belt and is in no mood to surrender it.
Until January this year when the new Constitution was enacted, every Jim and jacked political party felt it could have a shot at the leadership of this beloved country. The 50 plus one (50+1) clause of the new Constitution has, however, derailed that overzealous dream.
For a political party to win the upcoming elections, it would have to outdo the other parties convincingly by making the 50+1 cut. This clause makes it practically impossible or for lack of a bad word, an uphill battle for small parties. They would either have to ride with the big boys or fall out of the race completely before it even gets to its optimum temperature.
Though the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has announced that nine presidential candidates have successfully filed in their nominations, the general mood is that this is still a race between the PF and the UPND.
The successful candidates for other parties in random order being Edith Nawakwi, the only female candidate in the presidential race representing the Forum for Democracy and Development Party, Peter Sinkamba the leader of the Green Party, Tilyenji Kaunda of UNIP, Maxwell Mwamba of Democratic Assembly and Wynter Kabimba of the Rainbow party.
Others are Savior Chishimba of the United Progressive Party and Andyford Mayele Banda of the People’s Alliance for Change.
Despite the number of presidential candidates indicating that it would be an open race, the 50+1 clause also limits the focus of this article on just two political parties, the ruling PF and the main opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND).
For the PF, they have a man who is already carrying the presidency in his pocket while for the UPND, they have a record of being in second or third place in theprevious elections.
Of course it would be a waste of time to drag the former ruling party, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in this election as they have already thrown in the towel that now determines that the contest would be between the PF and the UPND.
This predication does not in any way demean the other seven parties but a mere suggestion for them to pull up their socks if they are to turn the tables any time soon. No one can be counted as a loser yet but getting to State House is more about precise and getting a handful of supporters.
It is also worth casting back to this point that in the 2015 elections, it was the PF’s candidate Edgar Lungu and the UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema who emerged as frontrunners to contest and win the election in what appeared to be a two-horse race.
So far, this trend seems to be favouring the ruling party as evidenced by swarms of people wanting to have a feel of the aura that comes with the Presence of the Republican President Edgar Lungu.
The UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema has in the past put up formidable campaigns ahead of elections that have made his name’s initials HH a familiar sound and this year’s election is no exception. Mr Hichilema and his supporters have their eyes fixed on Plot One.
The opposition party UPND has made a follow up on their supposed evolvement with a 10-Point Plan Manifesto which they feel would have a positive twist for them in August as it promises creation of jobs and business opportunities, reducing inequalities, provide education and empower, electrification of Zambia, improving competitiveness, cutting government waste, agriculture development, stable and consistent policies, a healthy nation and good government.
The Patriotic Front on the other hand had theirs launched in Lusaka and the Copperbelt recently. The PF Manifesto focuses on an Industrious, prosperous, peaceful, stable, united, democratic, and Inclusive Zambia, under the One Zambia, One Nation.
To the ruling party, they are already living the 10-point plan as they are in the driving seat and implementing their promises of 2011 when the PF came into leadership.
Whether these two manifestos from two strong political parties would have a bearing on an ordinary voter, it is only the same ordinary voter who can answer it. And for sure they will on August 11 through the ballot box.
Both supporters from the two political party rivals are trying to explain away the question if this is a neck-and-neck contest or a race of a life time. Arguing that it would be a clear win for each other’s party.
Amidst party members’ defections and cries over candidate adoptions, the media has with breathless treatment followed the events religiously.
The turn of events as we head into serious campaigns have also been a daily bread for both the print and electronic media to feast on, of course not forgetting the online and social media that keep adding spice to the countdown momentum.
Social media drama has been winding its way to every bit of the news, though most of the times unreliable; it’s been setting the tone for reliable information.
Just last week the nation was interested in knowing who the running mates were going to be for the aspiring presidential candidates, especially the UPND which kept the name as a mystery until filing in day when it announced Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM), a former Defence
Minister in the PF who himself has never been shot of his own public drama characterized by wrong encounters with the law.
In the centre of it all, the UPND president justified his choice for GBM by saying, he wanted somebody who would be a uniting factor and was willing to soil his hands as his running mate and that GBM fits the billing.
The opposition leader told Muvi Tv that the manner in which they handled the secret of who would be his running mate shows the level of maturity and readiness to govern the country.
For some voters’ opinions, the rhetoric flourishes that has been going on is just a tip of the iceberg as there is still time between now and August 11 for candidates to give a shot at the electorate with words that will or will not warm their hearts.
Others feel that though the August election will be guided by the new Constitution, they can never be compared to the previous ones, especially the 1991 and the 2011 elections when it was clear even to the dumbest person that the nation was going to vote for change.
This year’s election only leaves more questions than answers according to Amon Banda of Ndola, who wonders whether this could be Mr Hichilema’s end to a somehow long political career if he was to lose it again.
Mr Banda also wonders whether this is just another opportunity for President Lungu to enjoy another winning feeling once the elections are done and dusted.