UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says his party has remained as the strongest opposition political party in its 20 years of existence because of its continued participation in elections under a focused leadership.

In an interview with News Diggers! Hichilema said UPND was the only opposition party with structures and councillors all over the country, adding that it is now ready to govern the country.

“I think the last 20 years of existence of the UPND, we have achieved a lot. By and large, you need to know that a lot of practice, today in this country, we have over 50 political parties that are registered and many of them are there purely in a symbolic manner. By that I am not demeaning anybody because you can only test that by looking at those that are in Parliament, which party has councillors, and UPND has; which party has chairmen at councils, UPND has. I am talking about the opposition now. Which party has mayors? UPND has, which party has managed to run elections anytime, all the time? UPND has and continues to do that under a focused leadership. Essentially, UPND has structures all over the country. We have councillors in all the provinces of Zambia,” Hichilema bragged.

He said a larger portion of Zambians would like to see the UPND government them, as evidenced by the number of votes the party gets in elections.

“If you look at our performance, as a party, we have now institutionalised this organisation called UPND because we have for years as a party managed to get a national share of the vote. I am talking about a situation where for sometime a party was getting below 30 per cent of the share of the national vote. Today, if you look at the share of the national vote; we take the presidential votes for example…the last election moved us to 48 per cent,” he said.

“When you compare with the person that is in office today, above the threshold of 50 per cent plus one, the gentleman in State House is sitting in that office on account of 13,022 votes. And when you just look at now, who constitutes the 100 per cent of the votes in this country? UPND and PF share 98 per cent plus of the total national vote. The rest of the parties that are participating are sharing less than two per cent.”

He argued that not being in office did not mean that the UPND did not win elections.

“I don’t think we can even take time to illustrate that UPND has grown, UPND is resilient, UPND is now institutionalised. And that’s what you need in the organisation of a political party. It doesn’t appear during elections only and then disappear after that; I am talking about general elections, I think it’s important for us to understand the strength and the future of our democracy. So, UPND has contributed substantively on democracy. The fact that we are not in office does not mean that we do not win an election, and I think that goes without say,” he said.

And Hichilema said he is now ready to govern this country because he has gained a lot of experience.

“The party is now ready to govern this country. We have gathered a lot of experience, I know the things that work. And I want to give credit to the founding father of this party. He did a lot of work. He is a soldier who died on duty, but he died at the front of the party to grow democracy. And we carry on that torch, the seed [which] he planted has not only germinated, but has grown deep roots. It’s entrenched in the Zambian community. So, I think UPND is ready to govern,” said Hichilema.