The battles for the Chilanga and Mpulungu parliamentary by-elections have now been declared following the filing of nominations on 7th October, 2010.
In Mpulungu, five candidates successfully filed in to replace late area parliamentarian Lameck Chibombamilimo who died in India a month ago.
These were ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)’s Given Mungomba, Alex Mwazia of the National Restoration Party (NAREP), Freedom Sikazwe of the Patriotic Front (PF), Germaniko Simusokwe of United National Independence Party (UNIP) and Chilobwela Sinyangwe of the newly formed Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD).
Bearing in mind that the ruling MMD will be campaigning to retain ‘their seat’, the party will fight to the last blood to maintain its dominance in terms of the parliamentary seats it holds in the Northern Province.
Currently, the party has eleven of the 21 parliamentary seats in that province.
Most of these seats are in the northern part of the province and they stretch from Kaputa constituency in the west to Isoka East in the East.
This means that all parliamentary seats bordering with neighbouring Tanzania are all held by the ruling party.
Mpulungu is right in the heart of the MMD ‘strongholds’ as it is sandwiched between MMD constituencies such as Chimbamilonga, Senga Hill and Mbala.
However, the opposition PF is said to have made impressive in-roads in Mpulungu though they expect a stiff fight if they are to turn the tables to their favour.
The PF is likely to use the hounding out of the late area MP from the MMD as one of their campaign issues.
Late Chibombamilimo was expelled from the party after President Rupiah Banda sacked him as Energy Deputy Minister when he accused him of being loyal to the media and not him.
The President vowed to follow him to his constituency in an event of a by-election but that day never came as the late MP died before his appeal against his expulsion could be disposed off by the courts of law.
In Chilanga constituency, four candidates have entered the race to replace former area member of parliament Ng’andu Magande who was expelled from the party a month ago.
These candidates are ruling MMD’s Keith Mukuta, United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Captain Cosmas Moono, Valerie Mukeleni of NAREP and UNIP’s Henry Silumesi.
With the campaigns already under way, all parties have what it takes to upset tables but the main contest (I think) will be between the MMD and the UPND as these seem to be well grounded on the Chilanga terrain.
This is so because the MMD will be riding at the back of incumbency while the UPND has a former area Member of Parliament as its candidate who a number of electorates may still remember.
The vast Chilanga constituency borders the following constituencies both in Lusaka and Central Provinces: Katuba, Mwembeshi, Kafue, Kanyama and Chongwe.
It is this vastness which defines the distinct nature of voters in this constituency.
From what I can call Chilanga proper are people who are mostly civil servants and the working class, to the western part of the constituency are farmers and villagers.
Among these people are these various issues that may be at the heart of voters in Chilanga: poverty, farming, security and education.
It is this background that will help any of the four candidates to woo voters and win the seat.
In terms of the significance of the seat to the various political parties, if UPND’s Capt Moono wins, he will be getting back the seat he lost in 2006 and it will be his party’s only seat in the province at present.
If MMD’s Mukata carries the day, he will maintain a seat that his party has held tight since 2006. He will also ensure that the party maintains its five ‘rural’ seats in the entire province.
For NAREP’s Mukeleni, this is the first election the party is taking attempting since its inception early this year. She is likely to be the happiest of all looking at the possible historic significance of this seat to her party.
The country’s independence party UNIP is looking at Chilanga as the second seat they may have in the 150 seat Parliament of Zambia aside of Lundazi which is held by Home Affairs Minister Mkondo Lungu. The Chilanga seat will also help the almost forgotten and once ‘almighty’ party to rekindle its old glory.
As the people of Mpulungu and Chilanga cast their ballots on 30th August 2010 (if at all the date won’t be changed), their task will be to choose an MP who will listen to their cries for development.
Pundits, commentators and political observers like me will keep an eye on every twist and turn on the campaign trail till the end.
For now, I expect the candidates to campaign wisely with issues and not character assassinations, so that voters can vote wisely irrespective of their party affiliations.
By Paul Shalala