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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Are One Man Parties Doing More Than Good?

Another political party is born! The party is called Peoples' Party (PP) led by Mike Mulongoti. He plans to hold a convention in a few months time after "funds mobilisation and massive recruitment of members".

The last party to be formed was called 'People of This Way' led by Bernard Mumba. It has the Bible as its party symbol. That one disappeared. Before that N’gandu Magande created National Movement for Progress Party (NMPP) with the dea of becoming president in 2011. It's nowhere to be seen. In case you have forgotten there other one man / small parties : Mulipi's ADD ; Sondashi's FDA ; Saviour Chishimba's UPP ; the mysterious ZANC ; Chipimo's NAREP; and, let us not forget Fred Mtesa's Zambians for Empowerment and Development (ZED) party and the short lived Leftist Progressive Party which collapsed after its leader joined FDA.

As a matter of principle, I defend the right of these people to form parties. People should always be free to congregate as they wish and form as many parties as they like as long as tax payers don't have to foot the bill for their activities (regular readers will know I have a deep seated opposition to public funding of political parties). What is important is to ensure that voters are fully informed and parties are operating within a contestable and fair electoral system. But some argue that multiple one man parties represent an external cost on society. It distorts the level of information about political choices - they add unnecessary noise! So they should expire if they don't make inroads. 

Whatever our views on that, we should be under no doubt about one thing : all these one man / family parties are founded on delusions of grandeur. I have always said that the electorate should be wary of those who want to be their leaders but are unable to make accurate political calculations. I say that because the economic calculations will not come as natural to them. If a person cannot assess the costs and benefits at the individual political level, how will they be able to assess the costs and benefits of national policies?

Question : Should there be a law that allows parties to expire if they fail to get a seat in parliament?

Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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