To elect Members of Parliament (MPs), we use the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system. Article 47 (2) of the Constitution states as follows:
“Elections to the National Assembly shall be conducted under a first-past-the-post electoral system in accordance with Article 68.”
We are just coming out of a parliamentary by-election, which took place on Thursday 3 February 2022, in Kabwata Constituency. The death of the incumbent Member of Parliament (MP) prompted the by-election.
But by-elections are costly. They are a drain on the country’s resources. The resources that are used during by-elections can be channelled to more productive ventures.
– Why then have we continued to have by-elections?
– What is the sustainable solution to doing away with by-elections?
In order to avoid by-elections, the Constitution ought to be amended to provide for the PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION (PR) electoral system.
– Why do we have very few women and Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) as MPs?
– Why do political party adopt few youths to stand for election as MPs?
– What formula would guarantee increased numbers of women, PWDs and the youth in Parliament?
The formula lies in amending the Constitution to provide for the PR electoral system.
WHAT IS THIS PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION ELECTORAL SYSTEM?
“The Proportional Representation (PR) system is one where predetermined seats are allocated in proportion to the votes cast for the political parties. In this instance, parties prepare party lists of candidates earmarked to take the seats.”
(Report of the (Mung’omba) Constitution Review Commission, 29 December 2005, p. 248)
In this PR electoral system, the electorate do not vote for individual candidates. They vote for political parties. Political parties deposit the lists of their candidates with the Electoral Commission, in order of preference. The name of the party president is the first name on the list.
To illustrate how this Proportional Representation works, we take the recently held by-election in Kabwata, as an example of the 12 August 2021 general election. Nine political parties took part in the election. These were:
1. Democratic Party (DP)
2. Economic and Equity Party (EEP)
3. New Heritage Party (NHP)
4. Patriotic Front (PF)
5. Patriots for Economic Progress (PEP)
6. People’s Alliance for Change (PAC)
7. Socialist Party (SP)
8. United National Independence Party (UNIP)
9. United Party for National Development (UPND).
Ahead of the elections, all the nine political parties would have deposited their lists of 156 Parliamentary Candidates with the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
Going by the results of the Kabwata by-election, representing the 12 August 2021 general election, the 156 parliamentary seats were going to be shared according to the number of votes each political party got, which is a percentage of the total valid votes.
The total valid votes cast in Kabwata were 27,520. The participating political parties would have got the number of seats according to the percentage of their votes, as follows:
– UPND: 13,574 votes (49.32%) (77 seats: to be taken by the first 77 candidates on the list)
– PF: 11,192 votes (40.67%) (63 seats)
– SP: 1,849 votes (6.72%) (11 seats)
– EEP: 420 votes (1.53%) (2 seats)
– PAC: 222 votes (0.81%) (1 seat)
– DP: 124 votes (0.45%) (1 seat)
– UNIP: 63 votes (0.23%) (1 seat)
– NHP: 46 votes (0.17%) (0 seats)
– PEP: 30 votes (0.11%) (0 seats)
LIST OF 156 PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATES
Regarding the compilation of the candidates on the party list, the Mung’omba CRC recommended as follows:
“… the modalities of catering for interest and disadvantaged groups should be left to the political party list system; and to enhance the efficacy of this party list system, appropriate legislation should be enacted to provide guidance and criteria on the compilation of the party list.” (p. 252)
Following the guidance and criteria, the male and female candidates alternate on the party list. If the first candidate is male, then the second is female, and vice-versa.
And for every 12 candidates on the party list, the 11thand 12th candidates are persons with disabilities.
In this regard, the list deposited with the ECZ by each political party could have been as follows:
3. Youth (male)
4. Youth (female)
7. Youth (male)
8. Youth (female)
11. PWD (male)
12. PWD (female)
15. Youth (male)
16. Youth (female)
19. Youth (male)
20. Youth (female)
23. PWD (male)
24. PWD (female)
27. Youth (male)
28. Youth (female)
31. Youth (male)
32. Youth (female)
35. PWD (male)
36. PWD (female)
39. Youth (male)
40. Youth (female)
43. Youth (male)
44. Youth (female)
47. PWD (male)
48. PWD (female)
51. Youth (male)
52. Youth (female)
55. Youth (male)
56. Youth (female)
59. PWD (male)
60. PWD (female)
63. Youth (male)
64. Youth (female)
67. Youth (male)
68. Youth (female)
71. PWD (male)
72. PWD (female)
75. Youth (male)
76. Youth (female)
79. Youth (male)
80. Youth (female)
83. PWD (male)
84. PWD (female)
87. Youth (male)
88. Youth (female)
91. Youth (male)
92. Youth (female)
95. PWD (male)
96. PWD (female)
99. Youth (male)
100. Youth (female)
103. Youth (male)
104. Youth (female)
107. PWD (male)
108. PWD (female)
111. Youth (male)
112. Youth (female)
115. Youth (male)
116. Youth (female)
119. PWD (male)
120. PWD (female)
123. Youth (male)
124. Youth (female)
127. Youth (male)
128. Youth (female)
131. PWD (male)
132. PWD (female)
135. Youth (male)
136. Youth (female)
139. Youth (male)
140. Youth (female)
143. PWD (male)
144. PWD (female)
147. Youth (male)
148. Youth (female)
151. Youth (male)
152. Youth (female)
155. PWD (male)
156. PWD (female)
This party list has seventy eight (78) male candidates and (78) female candidates, out of which 54are youths and 26 are persons with disability.
The allocation of the seats to the political parties according to their votes is as follows:
UPND: 77 seats
The first 77 on the list comprise 39 male MPs and 38 female MPs. 26 of these MPs are youth and 12 are persons with disability
PF: 63 seats
The first 63 on the list comprise 32 male MPs and 31 female MPs. 21 of these MPs are youth and 10 are persons with disabilities
SP: 11 seats
The first 11 on the list comprise 6 male MPs and 5 Female MPs. 4 of these MPs are youth and 1is a person with disability
EEP: 2 seats
The first 2 on the list comprise one female and one male MP. Both are youth.
PAC: 1 seat
The party president is male.
DP: 1 seat
The party president is male.
UNIP: 1 seat
The party president is male.
According to the number of votes obtained, the group allocation of seats works out as follows:
Male MPs: 81 seats (52%)
Female MPs: 75 seats (48%)
Youth MPs: 53 seats (34%)
PWDs MPs: 23 seats (15%)
The PR electoral system would be the suitable system for Zambia.
While it guarantees increased numbers of the women, youth and PWDs in Parliament, it also guarantees seats for small or emerging political parties. The Presidents of these parties would then be MPs, since their names are the first ones on the party lists.
– And how does the PR system do away with by-elections?
If a UPND MP dies, candidate No. 78 on the list that was deposited with the ECZ fills up the vacancy. If it is a PF MP that dies, then candidate No. 64 on the list replaces the deceased. If it is the SP that loses an MP then candidate No. 12 on the list becomes the MP. If an EEP MP dies, candidate No. 3 on the list fills up the vacancy. If an MP’s death occurs in any of the three parties with 1 seat each, then candidate No. 2 on the list becomes the MP.
About the Author:
Simon Kalolo Kabanda is a Human Rights and Development Consultant. He is also an analyst of governance and socio-political developments.
(If you have any socio-political question that you would like to be discussed on this column, kindly send a message to me either through sms, WhatsApp or email).
SIMON KALOLO KABANDA
8 February 2022