Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UPND's call to PF to halt its election petitions
By Editor
Sun 23 June 2013, 14:00 CAT

Opposition UPND spokesman Charles Kakoma says the Patriotic Front should wait for the 2016 general elections to regain the parliamentary seats they lost in the 2011 elections.

Kakoma says "people are tired of these by-elections. If they wanted these seats, they should have waited for 2016 elections because these are unnecessary and costly by-elections".

And Kakoma has accordingly urged the Patriotic Front to withdraw its parliamentary by-election petitions because they are a drain on national resources.

We agree, parliamentary by-elections are indeed a drain on national resources. But we wonder what standards Kakoma is using to urge the Patriotic Front to withdraw its parliamentary election petitions when his own party, the UPND, has a parliamentary election petition before our courts of law. The UPND was a party to the Livingstone parliamentary election petition that resulted in the nullification of the MMD's election victory and the holding of fresh parliamentary elections in that constituency. But even after the by-election, UPND has gone ahead to again petition the results of that by-election that was won by the Patriotic Front. What standards are these? Double standards!

It is said that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If it is good for the UPND to petition an election result they are not happy with, it is also good for others to do the same if they so feel.

Clearly, what the UPND is concerned about is not the cost to the nation of holding parliamentary by-elections. They are worried about the loss of seats on their part and the gaining of seats on the Patriotic Front's part. If the UPND was sure of winning every parliamentary by-election, or even a good number of parliamentary by-elections, they would not be talking against election petitions that cause by-elections. They are participating in these by-elections to gain more seats. They have petitioned the Livingstone seat to gain more seats. What else would that petition be for if not for them to win the Livingstone seat?

This is a political party that is expelling its members of parliament knowing very well that this will result in by-elections. Their argument is that they would rather have fewer members of parliament, cause by-elections, than condone indiscipline. But wouldn't others similarly say that they would rather petition electoral malpractices, cause by-elections, than condone electoral fraud?

There is no doubt these by-elections are a costly undertaking. But there is also no doubt that the election petitions that have caused most of these parliamentary by-elections are helping cleanse our electoral process of vices. And we should be grateful to the Patriotic Front for initiating most of these election petitions that have given our courts of law the opportunity to help cleanse our electoral process of malpractices.

We all knew that the 2011 elections were full of electoral mischief by the MMD and its allies. And UPND was an ally of the MMD in the 2011 elections and they joined in the corruption that characterised the MMD's campaign.

The Supreme Court's nullification of the UPND's Mulobezi Constituency electoral victory on the basis of electoral corruption is a clear testimony of the corruption of that league. The Supreme Court has established as a matter of fact that UPND was involved in electoral corruption through the widespread donation of blankets and mattresses in the constituency. How can the UPND explain the distribution of blankets and mattresses during an election campaign in a constituency? They have been caught bribing the electorate. No matter how much they try to deny this, a record of corruption has been created for them and they will not be able to erase this. Together with the MMD, the UPND was involved in electoral corruption. They were bribing the electorate. This needs to be stopped if we are to enjoy, as a nation, free and fair elections. Elections where those who are lawless are allowed to bribe the electorate with blankets and mattresses cannot be said to be free and fair.

And there is no cost that should be spared in fighting crime. Bribing the electorate is a criminal offence which should be fought like any other crime. And fighting crime is not a cheap undertaking - it is a costly one. But no resources should be spared in fighting crime.

We should be thankful to our courts of law for the near zero tolerance to electoral fraud and corruption that they have continued to show in these election petitions. Our courts are pushing our election standards to another plateau of decency and honesty that we should be proud of.

Those who do not want to change their ways will continue to have their election victories reversed. But in the end, the nation will benefit from all this and the costs accompanying it. Yes it is expensive to nullify these seats and hold by-elections. But cost should not stand in our way of creating conditions where justice and fairness can prevail and where deceit, fraud, bribery should fail in elections.

If the politicians who take part in these elections were willing to conduct themselves in a fair and decent manner, there wouldn't be so many election petitions and consequently by-elections.
If election petitions are the only way of addressing electoral injustices and fairness and fraud, then let it be so. And it is unfortunate that those asking the Patriotic Front to withdraw election petitions are the ones who have been found wanting and have lost seats as a result of these petitions.

And if the UPND is really serious and honest about its concern for by-election costs, let them wait until 2016 to sort out their 'truant' members of parliament and avoid expelling them and causing by-elections. Can the UPND listen to such advice and take it? The answer is a categorical no. Cost is not their concern. Their main concern is power. They have to show they have power even when they don't have it. This is not a political party that operates on principles and standards. It is a political party that is propelled by expediencies of the moment. If it is expedient for them to denounce something, they will do so without regard to principles or standards. If it is expedient for them to embrace something, they will do so without shame even if this violates clear principles and standards. Look at their behaviour when it comes to Rupiah Banda's corruption. When it was expedient for them to denounce Rupiah and the corruption of his league, they did so without restraint and respite. And when it became expedient for them to go to bed with Rupiah, they forgot about their charges of corruption against him and have come to his defence against corruption charges. This is UPND for you - a party of the unprincipled.

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