Zambia goes to the polls today to select its sixth president. This was brought about as a consequence of the death of President Michael Sata on October 28 2014 – right after the country celebrated its 50th year of independence. The constitution in its current format dictates that elections be held within 90 days of the demise of a president. This is the second by-election to be caused by the death of a president (President Mwanawasa in 2008) in Zambia’s young history.
There are 11 candidates contesting for the top position but realistically there are only 3 who have the support base to win – Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and Nevers Mumba of the former ruling party Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD).
PF: Over the last 3 elections, on average, they have won at least 50% of the votes cast in Lusaka, Copperbelt, Northern and Luapula provinces. They have also, on average, won at least 16% in Eastern and Central provinces over the last 3 elections.
UPND: Over the last 3 elections, on average, they have won at least 70% of the votes cast in Southern province. They have also, on average, won at least 20% in Western, North Western and Central provinces over the last 3 elections.
MMD: Over the last 3 elections, on average, they have won at least 50% of the votes cast in Central, Eastern, North-Western and Western provinces. They have also, on average, won at least 20% of votes cast in the other 6 provinces in each of the last 3 elections (consistency).
Here are 3 charts showing performance by province in 2006 (voter turnout 70.8%), 2008 (voter turnout 45.4%) and 2011 (voter turnout 54%):
MMD won in 2006 (43% of votes) and 2008 (a very tight 41% of votes) before they were ousted by PF (43% of votes) in 2011.
What’s changed since 2011?
3 years is a long time in politics and here is what has happened since the 2011 elections:
A number of legally disputed parliamentary election results which had previously gone the way of the former ruling party MMD were thrown out and 18 by-elections were held with the following results:
PF has 50% of the parliamentary seats (74) after winning 9 out of 18 parliamentary by-elections over the last 3 years – with 5 seats gained in non-stronghold provinces of Central (2), North-Western (1), Southern (1) and Eastern (1). UPND won 6 out of 18 seats also with 5 gained in non-stronghold provinces of Central (2), Copperbelt (1) and North-Western (2). MMD successfully defended 3 seats in Eastern province.
Mutiny in MMD
MMD candidate Nevers Mumba has had a rough go of it fighting mutiny in the ranks. He was initially ousted in favour of former President Rupiah Banda but the Supreme Court ruled that Nevers was the rightful candidate which put an end to Banda’s comeback. Banda then endorsed PF candidate Edgar Lungu along with 25 MMD members of parliament (MPs).
Meanwhile, a few other MMD MPs had already endorsed UPND candidate Hakainde Hichilema and were campaigning for him.
Wrangles in PF
A vacuum was left after late President Sata died and a number of PF members were looking to fill it. It came down to Defense and Justice Minister Edgar Lungu (who was backed by the PF central committee and the majority of members) and Matero MP Miles Sampa (Sata’s nephew, backed by acting President Guy Scott and a few others). Lungu won and stood on the PF ticket.
One of the PF founding members Wynter Kabimba formed his own party after being fired as Secretary General and Justice Minister by Sata. 3 PF MPs (2 elected and one nominated) recently decided to back UPND candidate Hakainde Hichilema – key of which is Geoffrey Mwamba, MP of Kasama Central (in PF stronghold Northern Province).
Assessing candidate’s chances
MMD: Nevers Mumba is an eloquent and charismatic communicator and who has tasted the upper echelons of power before a Vice President of Zambia. Historically, MMD has enjoyed very good support in each of Zambia’s provinces – more balanced than PF and UPND which has been an important component of their electoral success.
What he has to fight against: Nevers is climbing a huge mountain after having the rug pulled out from under him. Historically, Zambians have shown that once you are voted out, you stay out. A key casualty of that is former President Kaunda’s UNIP whose support has dissipated since being ousted from power in 1991. The fact that former president Rupiah Banda is supporting PF will be a devastating blow.
UPND: Hakainde Hichilema couldn’t have asked for a better start to these elections – infighting by MMD and PF gave him a head start in campaigning from social media to television. He and his team have flown to campaign in various parts of the country (which he didn’t have the opportunity to reach in previous elections). He’s looking to leverage his business background to “run the country like a CEO” and boost performance in various sectors – enacting the constitution, free education, lifting the civil service wage and employment freeze are key points in his campaign message.
What he has to fight against: He has to fight off the tribalism tag and classification of UPND as a regional party, both of which have haunted him during his political career. Support for UPND has been declining over the last 3 years, dropping to 18.5% of the electorate in 2011. He has to win at least 20 to 30% of votes in PF strongholds where he has had miniscule support (especially in the North).
PF: Edgar Lungu is seen as “the chosen one” because Sata gave him a lot of responsibility and specifically left him with the instruments of power before making what would be his final trip for treatment in London. He is running on continuity of PF policies which have seen unprecedented investment in road, health, education and other infrastructure. They have managed to extract more tax revenue from the mining sector (many of which are notorious for having overly-generous legacy concessions and not paying income tax) by increasing royalty rates before and more recently. GDP growth has averaged over 6% under PF rule. The party has also been increasing their support base as per parliamentary by-election support results above.
What he has to fight against: The cost of living has gone up over the last 3 years with inflation hitting as high as 8.1% in 2014. The exchange rate has depreciated quite a lot against major currencies. There has been job creation but not enough to make a significant dent into youth unemployment. The constitution has not yet been implemented despite promises to do so earlier. Some policy changes have brought uncertainty to the business environment.
We project a win for Edgar Lungu (with at least 50% of the vote) to be elected the president of Zambia in 2015. Key to this is the analysis above and the following:
This is our take on the outcome of the 2015 elections.
Trying to decipher this puzzle that is Zambia by using a variety of publicly available data (structured and unstructured) in conjunction with my own skill/experience. * * *