Zambia's ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) is
sharply dismissing a new poll as a sham that does not reflect the enthusiasm of
its partisans ahead of Thursday's presidential by-election. The new poll
conducted by the independent African market information group Steadman suggests
main opposition Patriotic Party (PF) leader Michael Sata is going to defeat
acting President Rupiah Banda and the leader of the opposition
United Party for National Development (UPND), Hakainda Hichelema. Zambians
will go to the polls Thursday to replace the late President Levy Mwanawasa, who
died on Aug. 19.
capital, Lusaka, Zambian journalist Richard Mulonga tells reporter Peter
Clottey that expectations are high ahead of the vote.
"The poll shows that the
opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata is going to win the election by
46 percent. The current acting President Rupiah Banda is projected to lose the
election with 32 percent. Another opposition candidate Hakainda Hichelema of
the United Party for National Development is expected to get 21 percent, while
10 percent of the in the same poll were undecided on who to vote for," Mulonga
He said the ruling MMD has
dismissed the latest poll as a farce.
"The ruling party of course
has reacted sharply with contempt to the Steadman poll. According to MMD member
and veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga, he said the Steadman poll is reflecting
the opposite of what the MMD is expecting. They are saying the Steadman poll
misled the Zambian people in the previous election in 2006. They are saying the
MMD carried their own internal poll, which reflects a true picture of what they
expect. So, they are saying the Steadman poll should be rejected with the
contempt that it deserves," he said.
Mulonga said the reactions
have been mixed after the latest poll was announced.
"It depends on who you are
talking to. If you are talking an MMD candidate or member, they would reject
the Steadman poll with contempt. If you talk to the Patriotic Front, they would
accept it and if you talk to the cadres from the UPND, they will also have
their own feelings. But really, the Zambian people are preparing to cast their
vote and at the end of the day they expect someone to win. So it really depends
on who you are talking to," Mulonga pointed out.
He said the ruling party is
dismissing opposition criticisms, which suggest the government's recent developmental
efforts, are geared towards influencing the election.
"I was with the MMD campaign
team today and they have been talking about that because they are saying for
example the government has the responsibility to provide fertilizers to
farmers, and in Zambia this is the rainy season for farming. This is when
season farmers need the fertilizer most, and there is a program called the
fertilizer support program. And they are saying we cannot sustain this program
because of the election, adding that development has to go on even with the
election. The government is saying that we cannot wait two or three months
after the election when the rains are gone. That is when we would be
distributing fertilizer. It would be meaningless and bad for the government, so
development has to go on even if we have elections," he said.
Mulonga said the acting
president is also denying that the government is trying to bamboozle the
electorate to vote for the ruling party.
"I remember the acting
President Rupiah Banda expressing that point. But it has its effect also on the
opinion polls because the opposition is saying the government is trying to use
these developmental programs to hoodwink voters. For example in the rural areas
where the majority of the voters are farmers, when they receive free fertilizer
and highly subsidized farming inputs from the government, they take it as a
political somersault or political gymnastic to get votes," Mulonga noted.
wins will face the formidable task of matching late president Levy Mwanawasa's
strong track record of fiscal discipline, praised by Western donors, and his
cracking down on corruption.
political observers say both candidates have promised to tackle the huge
problems facing Zambia, but for all the hype in campaigning, neither is likely
to transform the political landscape in the short term.
Both the acting President
Banda and opposition leader Sata promise tax cuts and more subsidies
for poor farmers who say not enough of the 5 percent annual economic growth of
the last five years has trickled down to them.