Turning the Red Card into Blue: How the MMD will win the 2011 Elections

The forthcoming elections in Zambia have the potential to be the most intriguing elections in many years. Several analysts are predicting that Michael Sata and his PF are very likely to form the next government. This analysis has been buoyed by the pact that the PF has formed with the UPND, Zambia’s third largest party. However, in this article, I wish to show how the MMD will simply triumph in the next year’s elections.

First, the MMD’s win will be buttressed by a global economic recovery, which would also translate into some significant growth for Zambia’s economy. This growth is likely to come as a result of increased revenues from copper exports. It is already being predicted that Zambia’s economic will grow by at least five percent in the coming year. This is likely to work to the MMD’s advantage. Economically, therefore, the climate seems to favor the MMD government.

Secondly, the MMD is likely to win the 2011 elections due to Rupiah’s deliberate and strategic international political alliances. Rupiah’s international travels have in the past few weeks been heavily criticized as excessive and a waste of national resources. In fact, Father Bwalya of the Red Card campaign is reported to have written First Lady Tandiwe to advise her husband against making these trips. Politically, however, Rupiah made some trips that are aimed at bolstering the financial capacity of the MMD. Rupiah’s China visit was not just for government business but also party business as well. It is clear that during this time of elections, China would easily extend some resources to the MMD for its forthcoming campaign. And I am very sure that Rupiah did not just return from China with Chinese assurances of investment in Zambia, but also with some investment in the MMD as a party. China would want to stop Michael Sata at all cost. China quivers at the thought of a President Michael Sata due to his anti-China stance and his partnership with Taiwan. And this is more reason why China would be more than willing to support Rupiah over Sata, and should Rupiah ask for financial help from China for the MMD, that money would surely come in millions.

To further shut Sata’s Taiwanese bond, Banda went to Malawi barely a day after landing in Zambia from China for consultative talks with President wa Mutharika. Those talks should not be taken frivolously. They had a clear political purpose to deliver a message to Malawi (which collaborates with Taiwan over China) and to perhaps ask Malawi not to allow Taiwan to channel financial resources to Sata. I would personally not be too surprised if Malawi switches support from Taiwan to China in the next coming months. And if that ever happened, Rupiah Banda’s trip to Malawi shortly after returning from China will have taken on a new meaning.

Thirdly, the MMD wins by deploying Frederick Chiluba. No leader at the moment attracts sympathy and antipathy like Chiluba. He is both liked and disliked by the people. He is both insulted and consulted by many. However, after having sunk so low in his reputation following his alleged corruption trials, Chiluba’s reputation can only rebound. And as such, by using Chiluba, the MMD is consciously using a controversial figure whose rising popularity may actually help them with some votes.
Additionally, by using Chiluba, the MMD employs a complex strategy. In this option, the opposition will be concentrating on insulting Chiluba and singing songs of how they hate him, while the MMD capitalize on that distraction to campaign and deploy resources to its advantage. The opposition should not forget that Chiluba is not a candidate in the next election. Concentrating on him therefore, plays to the advantage of the MMD. And the MMD is fully using this to its advantage. For example, at Chiluba’s last press conference, he alleged things that put both Sata and Hakainde in a defensive position and they wasted a lot of time and energy trying to answer Chiluba. Unfortunately even the Catholic Church’s senior primate in Zambia got dragged into the muck. Those antics from Chiluba are clearly favoring the MMD and I believe that more are coming in the run up to the 2011 elections. Chiluba will therefore, help the MMD.

Fourthly, the emergence of a third wave political movement within Southern Province will rob the UPND of its popularity and consequently, deprive the UPND of some votes there. This third wave movement in Southern Province is likely to arise out of some Southerners’ dissatisfaction with Hakainde’s decision to enter a pact with the PF. I have doubts, however, whether we will still be talking of the Pact by November 2010. Hakainde knows very well that he risks losing support in Southern Province if he went ahead with the Pact. In fact, when Vice-President Kunda mentioned that some UPND members of parliament were planning to take over the UPND and get rid of Hakainde, he was not speaking from without. There is a real dissatisfaction, with some southerners that the Pact is, actually, a political sell-out to the PF. This dissatisfaction will inevitably lead to the formation of a new political movement within Southern Province which will favor the MMD’s reelection bid. Simple math is that with the current electoral law, the presidential candidate who emerges with more votes than other candidates wins the presidency. And so the more opposition votes are divided and the more opposition candidates we have in an election the easier it becomes for the incumbent to win.

Fifthly, the MMD has the chance to win the next election by deploring the same tactics that have made Sata popular. These tactics include populist language, naughty grandfather image, and grassroots mobilization. Rupiah Banda is already speaking the populist language. And on the Copperbelt, Chiluba is being used by the MMD to meet the people and speak the language they understand. While this move may not be very successful, even a slight triumph, however, helps the MMD garner that extra vote.

The naughty grandfather image has been used by Sata very well. He appears with the call boys and he openly identifies with ordinary problems of the people. And his alleged multiple relationships with women nonetheless, just makes him more enviable by some Zambians unfortunately. In the same vein Rupiah is also presenting the same naughty grandfather image. When in Luapula Province, for example, he told a crowd of pupils about how popular he was among girls when he was a young man—image issues that many young men and women face today. By projecting this image, Rupiah is likely to attract many young people. Nothing galvanizes the young than a grandfather who sits with you and tells you some saucy stories about their past. And this tool is likely to be effective in the next elections.

Additionally, William Banda is at the heart of a grassroots’ resurgence of the MMD in Lusaka Province. This mobilization should not be underestimated. It could prove very potent for the MMD, and by 2011 the opposition should not be surprised if the MMD takes up significant votes in Lusaka.

Sixthly, the MMD could win the 2011 elections, by flipping Father Bwalya’s red card campaign. Father Bwalya has just said that the red card campaign is the campaign for all Zambians since it has been embraced by all Zambians. By this, Father Bwalya may mistakenly think that since the red card is played by Copperbelt and Lusaka based NGOs and PF supporters, the whole Zambia is playing them. But this is not the case, as Sata has experienced in the last three elections, Zambia is more than just Lusaka and Copperbelt. And unless people in Milenge, in Shang’ombo, and in Mambwe play the same red card, it remains an urban phenomena supported by the urban elite living in Chipulukusu, Chiwempala and Chawama.

Through these and many other reasons, the MMD is more than likely to win the 2011 elections. It may just be time for the opposition to begin planning how they can win the 2016 elections. For sure the red card, may actually work then!

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