I recently asked our Facebook Page contributors for their assessment of NAREP and why it appears to be failing to make a mark with voters. More than 110 people responded in a well mannered and respectful political discussion. Here are the top five reasons they gave on why they think NAREP appears to have failed to make an impact. These are their reasons not mine:
(1) Lack of engaging leadership - In one word NAREP’s leadership is described as “poor”. Its leadership is believed by many to be closely aligned to the PF government. This has resulted in NAREP leaders going abroad with President Sata and also being unable to hold Government to account with necessary boldness. Elias Chipimo’s leadership was particularly cited as lacking charisma and a common touch (in contrast to President Sata and other leaders). NAREP has not created a diverse leadership that compensates for Chipimo’s weakness as a result his failings are amplified.
(2) Confused message - In one word NAREP’s message is described as “confused”. It is viewd as an elitist party targeting less than 10% of Zambians but without a clear political and economic message. The question simple question – “what does NAREP stand for in a single sentence?” – is not one that can be answered. This has meant it has failed to connect with the grassroots who need ideas communicated to them in a simple way. In a competing environment with strong PF, MMD and UPND machinery, NAREP message is confused.
(3) Poor party image - In one word NAREP’s image is described as “dented”. The party is largely viewed as an appendage to the PF. Elias Chipimo’s trip with President Sata to Brazil, at tax payer’s expense, is an iconic image emblazoned in the mind of most. Since then NAREP has shunned from forcefully holding PF to account and instead tended to intellectualise the very pertinent issues facing the country to take the heat out. Many also believe that NAREP has purposely pursued a selfish approach to politics, where it has sacrificed working with other political parties to be seen in favourable light by PF. Their leaders have not sufficiently explained their current posture.
(4) Incoherent strategy – In one word NAREP’s strategy is described as “invisible”. It has failed to reach key constituents and its energy has heavily focused on social media. Twitter and Facebook does not vote! It also lacks a flexible campaign strategy (rural vs. urban) There is a clear need for NAREP to deliver a more effective strategy that goes beyond the internet and encompasses creation of vibrant local structures. It also needs to find a way of controlling the print and local radio media.
(5) No political space in Zambia – In one word the political situation is described in Zambia as “regional”. Each party seems to have a regional power based that then allows it to spread its message more widely. NAREP faces the challenge that all power bases are taken and that its leadership has not sought to develop one. As a result it is fighting on all fronts. It is feasible for NAREP to build a regional base (e.g. Lusaka, Copperbelt) without being tribal. But such a base appears necessary in a country with little political space. The wider question is whether there’s any space in Zambia for more than 2 or 3 parties. If the answer is no, it may be that NAREP can only progress through mergers with existing parties. Though proportional representation voting, if it is introduced in the next Constitution, may offer a glimmer of hope for a small electoral foothold.
NAREP's President Elias Chipimo does read our website. So I am sure he will take on board the positive feedback (every feedback is positive because only people who care provide feedback). And I am hoping that he will respond and engage with our readers who do care about the party but clearly have some concerns. We shall share his comments when he does.
Question: What do you make of these five reasons?
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