By Gilbert Chenda
Within the next few weeks, political attention will shift to Milanzi constituency in Eastern province.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia will have no choice but to set a date for a bye-election following the demise of area MP Reuben Banda-Chisanga.
The political atmospere is aleready heating up.
President Banda in a way launched the campaigns during the funeral.
“Within a short period we shall be told when we are going to have another by-election so that we can fill the vacancy created by the death of our brother. Again as President of this country I want to plead to you, be the usual people of Milanzi, peaceful, democratic and respectful of each other,” “We will go to the elections, we want them to be fair elections where we will have to choose another member of parliament to fill the place that has been left by our brother”, president Banda told mourners.
Will the MMD retain this seat? The Eastern province has more MMD MPs than any other province. On that basis alone, one can be excused for sayig that the province is a ruling party stronghold. But those elections were held in the past. The situation could be different. Infact, the MMD only managed to grab the seat from UNIP in the June 26, 2008 election.
In 2006, Chosani Njovu standing on the UDA beat the MMD candidate Rosemary Banda.
Unfortunately, Chosani Njovu who was more inclined to UNIP died and the MMD capitalised on that bye-election.
The MMD will certainly go for broke to defend the seat especially after the humiliation in Solwezi and Kasama.
But what are the chances for the opposition? The PF-UPND pact in particular. Unip will try to make noise but eveybody knows that UNIP is finished. Infact, the rival factions in UNIP may chose to support either the MMD or the pact.
The UPND and PF have an electoral agreement where the party with perceived stronger presence in a constituency fields a candidate.
Normally, this strength is calculated on the results of the most recent election in the constituency. There could be other factors though.
In the case of Milanzi, it would seem that the UPND will field the candidate.
In the 2006 elections, Chosani NJOBVU who stood on the UDA to which the UPND was a dominant partner won the seat with 5,682 votes.
The PF, through Ezala Mvula got only 529 votes.
In the June 2008 bye-election, UPND candidate Chimwala Phiri polled 2,303, PF candidate Peter Phiri got 688 votes. The seat was taken by MMD’s Reuben Chisanga.
But whatever the case maybe, the Milanzi bye-election will be a test for the pact’s penetration in the province. On the other hand, it will be a test for MMD’s dominance in the region.