A BIT OF HISTORY
In November 2013, I began a research into past election results in the multiparty era, particularly 2001-2011. My research culminated into a five-part series of articles that I wrote up to May 2014 (see links below).
I made an election forecast for 2016 that showed Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) winning with 39% of the vote, beating Patriotic Front (PF) with 30% and United Party for National Development (UPND) with 25%. Since then, the ground has shifted significantly with the death of President Michael Sata, the internal wrangles in MMD and PF on full public display, and the numerous cases of party leaders endorsing and campaigning for other rival parties.
Naturally, I could not resist making an election forecast for 20th January 2015 and many people had contacted me over the same. I have taken long because I was waiting for the dust to settle down (and there is lots of it). Firstly though, a recap of my findings in my earlier articles based on historical results:
1. You need 40% to comfortably win an election in a three way race (MMD, PF and UPND). 34% is sufficient if the vote is very split among the Big Three.
2. PF is strong on the North-East and UPND in the South-West. In 2011, PF got an average of 52% in Luapula, Northern and Eastern while UPND got 45% average in Southern, Western and North-Western. In the South-West, PF got 14% and UPND got 2% in the North-West. In the Center (Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt) PF got 51% and UPND 12%. MMD is the most geographically spread. On average in 2011, they got 43% (North-East), 34% (South-West) and 35% (Center). UPND has been the most “regional” party of the big three.
3. By-elections are not a reliable predictor of a future by-election for reasons explained in Part Five of my series.
4. PF improved over 4 elections while UPND and MMD declined, especially from 2006 onwards.
5. The 2001 election is not very useful for extrapolation purposes because it was highly fragmented with the other 8 parties besides MMD, PF and UPND getting 41% which was eventually shared out among them.
6. From 2006, the minor parties have not gone above 5% of the vote.
7. The statistical results of 2001-2011 show that UPND has a massive uphill battle to win the 2015 or 2016 elections because of their poor showing in high population areas. The five biggest electoral provinces (Copperbelt, Lusaka, Eastern, Northern and Southern) account for 70% of the electorate and UPND has been doing poorly in 4 of these. Their last results in 2011 were 4% Copperbelt, 11% Lusaka, 3% Eastern, 1% Northern and 71% Southern. Hakainde Hichilema has actually declined marginally in Southern Province from 74% in 2006 to 71% in 2011.
THE HISTORICAL CHARTS
PRELIMINARY COMMENTS ON THE 2015 ELECTION FORECAST
Without further ado, let us get to the meat of the 2015 election forecast. I based my forecast on two things. The historical statistics and a qualitative evaluation of the new factors that have emerged. The former is fairly easy while the latter is more difficult because the various factors have had in many cases both a positive and negative effect and they do not apply equally everywhere.
This is where I have seen many pundits miss it. They make a forecast based on a single factor such as Rupiah Banda’s endorsement of Edgar Lungu without realizing that while the financial and campaign support may be good for Lungu, there are many who opposed Banda for his alleged corruption and they are not amused that he has been publicly embraced by Lungu. They can deduce that Banda is not supporting Lungu for nothing and that whatever “deal” was agreed between them cannot have anything good in it for the nation.
Others talk about the PF “unprecedented infrastructure development” as the reason Lungu will win but again, this development has not been equal everywhere. Some projects have been abandoned due to lack of funds such as the Ndola township roads which may be a negative. The building of two universities in Muchinga Province may excite the locals there but the same thing has upset the people of North-Western province who are producing the Copper that is funding the construction.
There are also vast differences between rural and urban populations whereby for example, the increasing price of mealie meal may upset urban dwellers but have little effect in rural farming populations where they grow their own food. The failure to pay farmers on time for their maize has upset the farming blocks but not as much in other provinces.
In Mathematics, trend lines that are derived from historical data are useful to predict future outcomes. This is the most important tool I used in my forecast although it has its limitations because trends can only hold if the factors contributing to them remain more or less constant. If significant new factors emerge, you have to re-evaluate and try to compensate.
So for example, UPND always gets over 70% since 2001. I can safely predict this trend will continue because none of the recent events shall significantly alter the trajectory of UPND. Most people have boiled it down to tribal voting in Southern Province although by the same token, Hichilema does poorly in the North and East and this shall continue.
I have combined the trend lines with an assessment of how I think the new factors have affected the vote. I assessed the factors province by province and in some cases by constituency. I also considered the rural versus urban vote.
1. The voters roll has reduced by 10% due to deaths and migrations which ECZ has not captured. Since we are using the 2011 voters roll, there shall be 4,650,439 registered voters.
2. Voter turn out shall be 50%, meaning there shall be about 2.3 million ballots cast. Rupiah Banda’s by election had 45% turnout in the dry season. Voting in the rains can potentially produce low turnout which can be offset by the anger many people feel against PF.
3. The Big Three (MMD, PF and UPND) shall account for 95% of the votes with 5% going to the rest.
4. Large swings of 25% or more in voting patterns after only 3 years are unlikely in a 3 way race.
5. MMD has been weakened by being out of power and by the internal rebellions it has faced.
6. PF shall be evaluated more critically than before.
7. The PF is unlikely to maintain the 42% it got last time.
1. The PF record. PF has made many poor decisions and their record seems to have many more bad things than good. Their much vaunted infrastructure programs are largely a continuation of what MMD started but the positives have been totally offset by the increasing cost of living, lawlessness of their cadres, declining press and personal freedoms, unstable economic policies, excessive expenditure, perceived nepotism and tribalism in appointments and alleged corruption.
2. The cost of living. Although mentioned above, it is a major factor on its own. It will affect PF negatively. The recent drop in fuel prices have not yet made a sufficient impact to change people’s minds to favour PF.
3. Tribal voting. Zambia appears to be slowly becoming more polarized on tribal lines as Northerners and Southerners trade accusations and insults. Well known leaders making tribal comments at rallies such as Daniel Munkombwe have not helped matters. There is a perception that the Bantu-Botatwe (Tonga, Ila and Lenje) may rally behind Hichilema just to make sure they shift the balance of power from the North-East. The Northerners may react negatively to this and dig in their heels although it seems they are divided at the moment between Edgar Lungu and Nevers Mumba.
4. Defections, mutinies and endorsements. These will impact negatively on MMD the most as their party structures have been deeply compromised. Defections from MMD will partly boost UPND and PF. However, the converse may also be true. MMD may become stronger as bad eggs are removed and the grassroots rally behind the party leader. UPND and PF may be judged as going the wrong way for embracing people from MMD that have a history of corruption and/or violence. The Banda endorsement of Lungu shall have a mixed effect.
5. President Michael Sata’s death. This will elicit a sympathy vote in the North but probably will not matter much in the South-West. It is hard to tell the effect in the Center.
6. Unpaid farmers. Central, Eastern and Southern are the biggest farming blocks, making 34% of the electorate and they will punish PF for not paying them on time for their maize. The fiasco in Eastern Province over cotton and tobacco means Edgar Lungu winning in the East is far from assured (it is infact unlikely).
7. Campaign effort. UPND and PF have had a much better organized campaign than MMD. UPND had a head start of just over a week. MMD was the last, owing to the Supreme Court case that ruled in favour of Nevers Mumba after about a month of legal wrangles.
a) Urban dwellers are less likely to be impressed than rural voters with roads and other infrastructure development. Urban centers are already more built up that adding a road or two is hardly noticed. In villages, tarring the road going through it is a big deal.
b) Cadre violence is more prominent in the urban centers where PF is stronger. If the urban dwellers get fed up with it, PF are disadvantaged.
c) Lusaka and Copperbelt traditionally go to the opposition more quickly than other regions. They account for 31% of the electorate. Sata got 51% of his votes from there. A loss of 20 percentage points in either region may prove catastrophic for PF.
d) MMD has 37 sitting MPs, of which about half are supporting either UPND or MMD. They have already been earmarked for expulsion.
After running the numbers using the best-case-scenario for each party, I then consolidated the results into what I consider the most likely outcome overall. The numerical result shows the PF barely winning the election with 34.7%, MMD coming runner up with 31.0% and UPND third at 29.3%. The margin of error is ±3%. The overall result is a statistical dead heat, meaning that any one of the 3 parties can win.
MMD coming second will be surprising to many people since they are not considered a factor. However, this perception is not backed by the numbers. PF is unlikely to remain at 42% due to their poor record the last 3 years. MMD has weakened but is likely to improve in some PF strongholds like Copperbelt and Lusaka which are quick to embrace the opposition.
UPND will be the greatest beneficiary of the move towards the opposition but because they are starting from a much lower base of 18% in which they do badly in 5 key provinces (Copperbelt, Lusaka, Eastern, Luapula and Northern), they need a very large swing in order to win. Large swings in 5 provinces at the same time seem unlikely, especially in the two northernmost provinces where UPND got less than 1% on average.
MMD already has a support base all over the nation and although they will lose votes, they will also gain from the weakening of PF. It is not possible for all the people abandoning PF to go to UPND. UPND needs to win the South-Western region by an average of 62% while getting over 30% in both Lusaka and Copperbelt in order to carry the day. They also have to hope that if people abandon PF, only a few will go to MMD.
PF is the incumbent party so it seems unlikely its support base will vote for other parties in sufficiently large numbers. Finally, PF got a lot of its supporters from MMD and it seems a large chunk of them will be more comfortable going back to MMD where they are known than go to a completely different party like UPND.
PF has a bit of an advantage over the other parties but it is small and it is very possible they will be defeated. MMD can rise from the ashes and possibly win. UPND does not yet have the numbers to win nationally because of their concentration in the South-West. They need to move significant numbers in Lusaka and Copperbelt.
Michael Chishala is just an ordinary Zambian citizen. Contact him at michael (at) zambia (dot) co (dot) zm.
The blatant immorality in Zambian politics has vindicated Dr Nevers Mumba’s message of the necessity of morality and integrity in political leaders. We have seen absurd things like people wearing an MMD headscarf with a PF chitenge or UPND T-Shirt as they have a fist in one hand and “The Hour” symbol in the other. This is total madness.
Therefore, I endorse Nevers Mumba for president.