Zambia opposition alliance crumbles ahead of polls

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The long-held perception in Zambia that political alliances can never work has come to reality once again following the crumbling of another alliance ahead of this year’s general elections.

The forming of alliances is seen as an effective way to mount a formidable challenge especially against a party in power.

However, the formation of alliances in Zambia over the years has not yielded desired results as they have fallen away before elections.

In 2020, 11 political parties formed an alliance to compete under one umbrella in this year’s August 12 general elections.

While stakeholders have not paid attention to the falling away of some small political parties along the way ahead of the elections, the decision by one of the big parties to leave the alliance has sent tongues talking.

Chishimba Kambwili, leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) announced last Saturday that the party was leaving the alliance due to differences.

He said the party decided to leave the alliance after realizing that its views were not being considered.

Among the differences includes the name of the alliance. While some parties have agreed that the alliance be called the UPND alliance, the acronym of the main opposition United Party for National Development, Kambwili’s party feels this is inappropriate because the alliance is comprised of different political parties.

The other difference is on which party lawmakers, councilors, and mayors should stand in the elections.

While the main opposition party wants all contesters to stand on its ticket, Kambwili’s party contends that the seats should be shared between the two big parties in the alliance on a 70-30 percent share basis.

The formation of the alliance, which brought Kambwili, who has an influence on the Copperbelt Province and the northern party of the country, and Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the main opposition party, was seen by many as a major challenge to the ruling party in the elections.

Hichilema has a large following in the southern, western, northwestern and some parts of central Zambia.

But some members of the alliance, including Kambwili’s own vice-president Joseph Akafumba, have expressed shock at the turnaround.

Akafumba said the decision of the party to remain in the alliance is in line with the wishes of the people who wanted a strong and united opposition.

He wondered how Kambwili allowed the party to remain in the alliance for the last three years only to pull out at the last hour.

“We followed what the people wanted and if we were wrong, then we didn’t want to be right. That’s the path we took, to follow what Zambians wanted. We have been all over the country and the cry has been the same,” Akafumba, who has since been suspended, told reporters during a press briefing.

Charles Milupi, the chairperson of the alliance and leader of the opposition Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD), said Kambwili’s decision is not a surprise because he has been missing in most of the meetings.

He however said the alliance was open to engaging the opposition leader in order to ensure a formidable opposition in this year’s elections.

Stakeholders have since expressed apprehension over the crumbling of the opposition alliance as they feel this will give the ruling party an advantage.

Macdonald Chipenzi, executive director of the Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services said political alliances in Zambia cannot work because of the manner in which they are formed.

He said political alliances in Zambia are formed for the sole purpose of removing the party in power and not on ideologies.

“That is why they are not standing the test of time. You can’t form a political alliance just before elections and you expect it to succeed,” he said in an interview.

According to him, for political alliances to work, they must be formed long before elections so that all the political ideologies are harmonized.

But Bizeck Phiri a political scientist from the University of Zambia said it is too early to predict the failure of the opposition alliance because what is happening are mere differences that can be worked on, local media quoted him saying. Enditem

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