Last week, the United Party for National Development (UPND) resolved not to field a candidate in the forthcoming Mufumbwe parliamentary by-election, slated for November 8, in support of its loose alliance partner, the MMD.

Although a common candidate does not guarantee victory to the opposition alliance, the move by the country's third largest political party is highly commendable as it fosters the strength and unity of the opposition, and diminishes rampant perceptions and criticism that they are selfish and incapable of working with other political parties.

Although independents and other small opposition parties are also likely to contest the by-election, the battle for Mufumbwe will be between the ruling PF and the opposition MMD-UPND alliance. The stakes are high and whichever way the result goes, the outcome will have important implications for both the ruling and opposition parties.

A PF victory, securing its first parliamentary seat in the region, will strongly reinforce claims that the ruling party is on the rise in North-Western Province, spreading its support base beyond its traditional constituencies.

A defeat will smash such assertions. An electoral triumph for the MMD will enhance the view that that North-Western Province remains the former ruling party's stronghold, a great response to its critics that the party is no longer a force to reckon with, having lost its status as a ruling party.

It will also be interpreted as a victory for the opposition, especially the MMD-UPND alliance, and will enhance their prospects for working together in future elections.

The UPND and MMD should understand that political alliances require collectivism, sacrifices and a synthesis of intentions, objectives, strategies and guiding principles. The success of any political alliance is largely dependent on the ability of the partners to rise above party boundaries and reconcile their differences to advance a common goal.

The UPND needs to stop viewing the resolution they have made over Mufumbwe as a favour to the MMD but rather view it as a necessary responsibility and a sign of commitment to their loose electoral alliance. The party should accept that the decision to back the MMD has consequent responsibilities, such as campaigning for their alliance candidate and accepting defeat or victory as a collective. If the PF wins the seat, both parties should accept responsibility for the defeat and move on.

The UPND should thus see its decision on Mufumbwe not as one to support the MMD candidate, but instead to support itself through the progress of the pact and the triumph of opposition unity.

The MMD should equally not see itself as defending its seat in Mufumbwe but defending the objectives and throne of the informal alliance, of which it is an essential component. This is an effective way of averting the bapeleni abene bakayonawile syndrome, which seems to have infiltrated the ranks of the UPND-MMD electoral alliance.

Recent media reports indicating that the UPND campaign machinery will not be in Mufumbwe to back the MMD candidate suggest that the UPND has made the decision not to field its candidate to prove that MMD is not capable or popular enough to scoop the Mufumbwe seat.

This suggests that the two parties are not honest with each other and that they are using the alliance to pursue objectives that are inimical to the success of the other partner. What is needed is for the two political allies to complement each other's strengths and flaws in the true spirit of their informal electoral alliance.

With the reported adoption of Steven Masumba by the ruling party, the PF should ensure that the supporters of both Elliot Kamondo and Masumba understand that Masumba's adoption is based not on personal preferences but on collective political strategy that works for the good of the ruling party.

Instead of conducting themselves in a manner that may instigate intra-party factions, because their preferred candidate has not been adopted, Masumba's and Kamondo's supporters should harmonise their affiliations into one arsenal capable of defeating the potentially formidable opposition. They should transfer their support to the adopted candidate and channel their energies towards ensuring that the PF scoops its maiden seat in North-Western Province.

Kamondo's reported acceptance of the decision made by the national
leadership to adopt Masumba, his pledge to remain a loyal member of the ruling party, and his appeal to his supporters to support Masumba are all important considerations in this respect. If he chose to show the slightest disdain for the PF central committee's decision, his erstwhile supporters may choose to redirect their vote as a protest.
May democracy win in Mufumbwe!