Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Livingstone By-Election: Campaign issues & statistics

By Paul Shalala

On 5 July 2012, registered voters in Livingstone Central Parliamentary Constituency in the Southern Province will be voting for the new member of parliament. This follows the nullification of incumbent MMD MP Lukolo Katombora's election a few months ago.
The nulification followed a successful petition by losing contestants who cited malpractices in the 20 September 2011 poll.
On 5 July, voters in Muchinga Constituency in Central Province and Chama North Constituency in newly created Muchinga Constituency will also be voting for their new MPs.

Of the three by-elections, Livingstone Central is likely to be the hotly contested due to its influence, strategic position and huge number of registered voters.

In this article, I will bring out the campaign issues, possible candidates and the statistics on the ground.

Possible Campaign issues
Like any other urban area in Zambia, Livingstone suffers from high unemployment, crime and poverty. In this tourist capital of Zambia, most young people are unemployed while a few who may have opportunities drive taxies or are involved in the hospitality industry which is heavily attached to the tourism industry. Therefore, employment creation is likely to feature heavily in the forthcoming campaigns.
Secondly, crime is another issue in the town. A few weeks ago, gunmen killed a European pilot, the following day they broke into a bureau de change and blew up a safe to have access to money. It is not long ago when Livingstone was terrorised by the infamous "batunsimbi" gang which went on the rampage beating, stealing and assaulting people. Therefore, security is also likely to be another campaign issue.
With poverty being everyone's cry in this country, voters in Livingstone will also be looking for an MP who will bring development to the area and ease the resident's suffering. Things like roads, construction or rehabilitation of schools and clinics are some of people's expectations in the area.

According to the latest voters register, Livingstone Central Constituency has 67,000 registered voters and 41,000 of them voted in last year's General Elections while more than 20,000 of them abstained from the polls. The constituency has 17 wards, 13 of whom are in the urban area.
With the realignment of Itezhi-Tezhi Constituency to Central Province, Livingstone Central is one of the 18 remaining Constituencies in Southern Province. With these lucrative statistics, the battle of Livingstone Central is likely to be a heated one considering that the stakes are high and whichever party wins on 5 July, it will carry prestige in the tourist capital.

PF Chances Of Winning
The Patriotic Front will undoubtedly field a candidate in this by-election considering that its losing candidate Joseph Akafumba is one of the people who successful petitioned the election of the MMD MP last year. The PF will ride on its incumbency, its access to mass media and its traditional support among taxi and bus drivers to bolster its chances of winning its first ever seat in Southern Province, an area which has been an opposition stronghold for 11 years now. 

The PF is also likely to capitalise on the urban vote to win this seat, remember 13 of the 17 wards are in town, so PF strategists are likely to work on this formula as they have done in most urban areas along the line of rail. By winning Livingstone Central, the PF will announce its arrival in a province which has been a headache for President Michael Sata who has had trouble getting votes in this area. In terms of a possible candidate, the PF is likely to field its losing candidate Akafumba who is a local lawyer and PF's provincial Chairman.

UPND Chances Of Winning
The UPND currently has all the 17 seats in Southern Province except Livingstone Central. This seat has eluded the UPND for a long time. This seat was previously held by ULP's Sakwiba Sikota before it shifted hands to MMD last year. The UPND has had a bulk of councillors in the Livingstone Municipal Council but the parliamentary seat has not been easy to grab. Therefore, the UPND is likely to use its grassroot support, its regional role as the sole power broker to get Livingstone Central. 

By winning this seat, the UPND will send a strong message that it has consolidated its support in the Southern Province, an area which has produced the bulk of its 29 MPS who are currently sitting in the 150 seat Parliament. A few weeks ago, rumours emerged linking Sakwiba Sikota to a UPND bid for Livingstone Central. Indeed Sakwiba may give the PF a good run for their money as he is a former MP in the area. Last year, Sakwiba didn't contest his seat but heavily campaigned for the MMD candidate in Livingstone Central.
Other Parties
The former ruling party MMD has publicly announced that it will endorse a candidate its parliamentary ally UPND will adopt, therefore we don't expect any MMD candidate in Livingstone.
Parties such as NAREP, ADD and as usual UNIP are yet to state whether they will take part in the by-election.

This by-election is likely to be heavily contested and many hope the evils of violence that has characterised recent by-elections will not manifest itself. Campaigning on issues will also help to level the playing field in order for a credible and democratically elected candidate to represent the people of Livingstone at Manda Hill (Parliament). The people of Livingstone need security, jobs, development and a good leader who will facilitate their access to the national cake.

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