Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rupiah Analyses His Election Options

Rupiah Analyses His Election Options
By Bivan Saluseki
Tue 15 Jan. 2013, 14:00 CAT

RUPIAH Banda says he had two options in the 2011 elections - to stand down and endorse the victory of President Michael Sata, or to hang on and dispute the results in court.

Addressing a two-day conference titled 'Elections March 2013: Imminent debates in the event of a Presidential run-off', at Nairobi's Crowne Plaza Hotel yesterday, Banda claimed he felt a bigger responsibility to uphold Zambia's record of peace, stability and democracy, even when in doing so, he was required to walk away from a very closely fought election result.

However sources told The Post that Banda did not 'walk' away from the presidency, he wanted to be declared the winner even after being told he had lost. Banda was advised by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and the intelligence to leave power.

The sources revealed that Banda was told that opposition PF presidential candidate Sata and his supporters already knew the results through their parallel vote tabulation (PVT) and that they had won but the former president insisted he would deal with the consequences of that.

The sources said Banda wanted to hang on to power at all costs even when he was told that the opposition had already tabulated their winning results through PVT.
But Banda told the Kenyan meeting: "it was more important to me, to preserve the peace and avoid unrest in my country."
However, Banda's close associates had in the past disclosed that Banda did not want to leave the presidency and had to be convinced by the intelligence and the diplomatic community for him to concede defeat.

Banda even wept as he bid farewell to staff at State House after losing elections.

And Banda's associates yesterday insisted that Banda in 2011 instructed the ECZ to declare him winner and told them he would have dealt with the dissent from opposition supporters.

"The ECZ out rightly told him that there was nothing else they could do other than accept defeat. So the chap is lying in Kenya," said the sources.

Banda also said: "My experience in the last Zambian presidential elections brought forward a number of these challenges. In an election contested by three major parties and seven smaller parties, our party, the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, secured the votes of 35 per cent of the country, and lost by a narrow margin of around 180,000 votes in a hard-fought contest."

Banda had won 2008 elections by a paltry 35,209 votes.
According to the final results released by the ECZ in 2008, Banda won 718,359 votes representing 40.09 per cent of the total votes cast followed by President Sata who garnered 683,150 votes or 38.13 per cent.
And Banda said the 2011 campaign featured all the hallmarks of a tough contest.
"There were moments of great intensity, unbridled passions among supporters of both parties, and urgent concerns among incumbent officials in my government over what would happen to them if the other party were to come into power," he said. "As the results were being counted, there were clearly two options before me - to stand down and endorse the victory of my opponent, or to hang on and dispute the results in court. I chose the former, because the stakes were simply too high, and although I believed I could best serve the people of Zambia, the restoration of unity, stability, and democratic integrity were in the public's interest."

He hoped that 'his decision' played a role in changing the expectations held toward incumbent presidents in elections across Africa.

"My goal from the beginning of my career in public service was to leave Zambia more united as nation than when I started, and it is my hope that history will show that we were successful," he said.

Banda urged African leaders to consider public good over personal interests if the continent's democracy was to flourish.

"Like many democracies in Africa, Kenya's success is the fruit of both hard work and perseverance in the face of tragedy. Kenya has shown the limitless potential of her people through unity, but unfortunately has also experienced the violent realities of social division. As you head to the polls on the 4th March 2013, we all hope and pray for a peaceful, orderly, free and fair exercise. If there is one message that I hope you may take away from my words today, it is that each and every citizen bears an important responsibility in a democracy- it is the responsibility of all of us to put the public good above ones private interest," he said.

"What is the public good, and how do we know when it diverges from the private interests of leadership? In my view, the public good is not an election victory, but rather the strength of the democratic system itself. The public good is the delivery of education, health, shelter, safety, and opportunities to the people. The public good must be based on the idea that rights are guaranteed, that laws are upheld, and that equality prevails over privilege. "

Banda told delegates from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia and Senegal that African democracy was taking root and urged the media to highlight electoral success with the same vigour that they reported on failed elections.

He urged young Africans to strive towards creating an environment in which leaders and their followers would not have to worry about retribution if they lost elections to their competitors.

Earlier, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Ahmed Hassan and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) Kenya country director Felix Odhiambo described Banda as a true democrat who was 'magnanimous enough to concede defeat in the 2011 presidential elections', thereby ensuring that Zambia remained a peaceful country.

"The message from President Banda is very pertinent as we go towards elections. Indeed, public good overrides other factors. President Banda understands the dynamics of free and fair elections. We are very grateful for the message you have brought to Kenya," said Hassan.

And Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Johan Borgstam said he hoped the Kenyan people would learn from Banda's experience and prepare well for the presidential and parliamentary elections set for 4th March 2013.

This is according to a statement and a speech issued by Banda's deputy administrative assistant Kennedy Limwanya.

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