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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Another day, another party (13th Edition)

Daniel Pule has formed a political party called the United People's Jubilee Party (UPJP). He says the party will “fight discrimination and tribalism of all kinds” and will be a party “for all Zambians”. Mr Pule says, “this is our 49th and I will invite you on the 24th of October for a major press conference, where we shall give the details of our Jubilee Party...this is a party for all Zambians, and it's grounded in the word of God. We are here to encourage Christians, Christian business people to participate in national affairs."

When asked who the other leaders in the party are, Pule said it will be revealed at the “Independence Day press conference”. Pule last served as deputy information minister in the Frederick Chiluba regime. In 2002, he formed the Party for Unity, Democracy and Development (PUDD), which is presumably no longer in existence.

Mr Pule has has been asked to change the name by Government for a somewhat foolish reason (apparently the word jubilee can only be used by government due to the independence celebrations next year). If he does succeed to keep the name, UPJP is the latest in the birth of new parties in 2013, which has already seen George Mpombo’s PDP, Frank Bwalya’s ABZ, Peter Sinkamba’s Green Party and Mike Mulongoti’s party (the name escapes me!).

My position on these mushroom / one-man/ family parties remain the same. 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 electoral system. In that vein let us all oppose the current Draft Constitution’s provision to fund political party. It is not only irresponsible but creates perverse incentives for more mushrooming of parties.

One ide I would consider supporting is what I call the “Angolan formula”. Angola has a law in the constitution that hands a death certificate to all parties that failed to pass the 0.5 percent threshold in elections. The measure does NOT apply to parties that do not run in the last election. The set up is designed to ensure that only viable parties remain and hopefully force other small parties into coalitions, therefore making the politics more competitive.

Angola has a unicameral parliament with a four year term. The National Assembly (Assembleia Nacional) has 223 seats elected by proportional representation; 130 members are elected from national lists, 3 members by Angolans living abroad and the 18 provinces each elect 5 members. In fact its registration system is envy of many, not to mention the 30% reservation rule of seats for women. Though I am not fully in favour of the 30% rule, it does have some merit. There’s a lot of empirical evidence on the macroeconomic benefits of gender equality in legislative or policy positions. But that is a topic for another day.

Chola Mukanga | Economist
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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