Zambians finally have their sixth President! Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) beat Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in a tight contest (48.3% vs 46.7%). This is not the result I wanted to see but it’s a result I will respect. I hope to remember the biblical command to “pray for your leaders” mainly because I hold quite different views to President Lungu and the PF.
For me, the last three years of the previous PF government was sufficient time to see what lay at the core of the party. It gave me even more reasons to believe that Zambia deserved better. Under the late President Sata, a number of things caused disquiet among many Zambians, for example: careless government spending (unnecessary increases in civil servant salaries which have now been frozen), high levels of government borrowing (Zambia’s external debt swelled by 34% in 2013 to US$4.7billion), a “big man” tendency rather than respect for institutions (the moving of the Roads Development Agency, a statutory body, to State House under the management of the former President’s campaign manager), blatant lies (“more money in your pockets” and denial after denial that President Sata was dying).
Edgar Lungu’s campaign message of “continuity” therefore never sat well with me. If a bad precedent had been set, then the last thing you’d want is “continuity”.
In spite of this, I have great hopes that President Lungu will be different to his mentor President Sata. I would like to see greater fiscal discipline and respect for public institutions and the law. He has the opportunity for a new and fresh approach before the next elections sometime next year.
The PF currently have a huge parliamentary majority. This will either stay the same or grow between now and the next elections. The temptation to switch sides will be great for many opposition MPs but if Lungu’s government is to be held to account, then we need those UPND, MMD and Independent MPs more than ever. We need them to provide a good counterbalance to the PF, a party that has previously said it would rejoice if all opposition was obliterated.