Michael Sata May Win the September 20th Zambian Presidential Elections

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I am not persuaded by the recent opinion polls by Synovate Zambia, the EIU and Standard Chartered Bank indicating that the incumbent Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) will win the upcoming elections owing to what they all termed his leadership of Zambia’s socio-economic development. Such polls have a poor record at predicting Zambian election outcomes. Moreover, the recent poll by the Centre for Policy Dialogue had Banda beating Sata by just 3%, which is within the margin of error of the poll and over the percentage number of undecided voters (6%). A common limitation of all the above polls is their failure to account for the ethnic distribution of those sampled. The salience of ethnicity in Zambian politics is pervasive and profound. Yet all the polls conducted so far seems not to have taken note of this important variable and, if they did, are disturbingly silent on how they addressed this challenge. In established democracies like United Kingdom, it is easy to carry out an opinion poll on the basis of class, for instance. But in a country like Zambia where the electorate still retain political party affiliation on the basis of ethnicity or tribe, the findings of any opinion poll that does not accommodate the ethnic distribution or composition of the Zambian society is weak and must be taken with caution. Accordingly, while acknowledging Banda’s considerable benefits of incumbency, I want to explore how the PF led by controversial opposition leader, Michael Sata – notorious for his populist rabble rousing appeal – may still be able to win the September 20th elections.

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