One month to Zambia’s next elections in August 2016, UPND leaders, alarmed that the Referendum on the Bill of Rights might become a deciding factor on the polls outcome, have started talking ill of the Referendum’s chances of success.
But voters are not listening as the Referendum’s popularity is on the rise.
However, a more nuanced way of viewing it is that the Referendum sensitization was gaining momentum as the people of Kaoma and other constituencies in Western province were fully aware of the reason why they should vote ‘YES’ to support the Bill of Rights rather than being politically inflexible and unable to appreciate the contents (“Referendum education intensified in Kaoma”, Daily Nation, July 4, 2016).
One major issue that has strongly emerged, and which will have a big impact on the general elections, is that of the Referendum on the Bill of Rights. While the Bill of Rights is fundamental to democracy and constitutionalism it has not forced opposition politicians to tone down on political incitement of the electorate to vote ‘NO’, the Referendum has become propaganda fodder for UPND politicians who are misleading voters that to vote ‘YES’ in the Referendum is to say ‘YES’ to Gay Rights.
The truth is that the political scenario in Western Province today has changed from what it was in 2011 when the UPND enjoyed massive support in the region.
The UPND billionaire businessman’s steady decline in popularity is not his only headache.
His troubles have been compounded further by defections from his party and acrimonious fallout with his close associates. This has led to the UPND’s key vote hunters leaving him to join the ruling party. All in all, UPND leaders should not import clauses which are not in the Bill of Rights and incite Zambians to vote against the document.
It may still be too early to predict who will be Zambia’s next president, but the Referendum is bound to play a significant role in the country’s next elections. So, the Referendum’s long shadow hangs over the impending elections whereby a ‘NO’ vote in the Referendum might indirectly imply a ‘NO’ vote in the presidential polls.