University of Zambia (UNZA) political science lecturer Professor Bizeck Phiri says a political party alliance cannot be formed on short notice because of perceived gains, which is why the Opposition Alliance is crumbling.

And Prof Phiri says an alliance in which political parties don’t agree on other issues, but only want to field one candidate in an election to defeat another party, cannot work.

Commenting on the state of the Opposition Alliance in an interview, Prof Phiri, a political historian, said the current 10-member Opposition Alliance could disintegrate at any moment if political parties were not resolved on who they wanted to field in an election.

“I think the problem is that when you are talking about alliances, first and foremost, an alliance cannot just be formed on short notice because of perceived gains and so on. That is why they are not working very well. If you are talking about an alliance, if you talking about political parties, if you are talking about a ward election where you are going to elect a councillor, unless that alliance is not standing and each one of the two parties is involved, or three parties involved are committed to what they have agreed and resolved, but if they have not committed and have not resolved that this is what we want to do, it will not work; it can break anytime. And that is why we are seeing all those kind of things,” Prof Phiri said.

“As you approach the ‘D-day,’ people go their own way and that is where the challenge is because when you talk about an alliance, it must have a concrete understanding and agreement and it should state exactly what needs to be achieved as a team that has come together, but if those things are not there, then you have a lot of problems.”

Asked whether the troubled Opposition Alliance could still work despite the setback, Prof Phiri said it could, provided the political parties had similar objectives.

“They can work if political parties involved have the same objectives. Because you see, you are talking about political parties, you have a party in power [and] political parties in the opposition, some of them are political parties in name only; [but] there is really nothing they are doing on the ground. So, at the end of the day, when you are forming an alliance, for a political party that is in name only, what alliance are you forming? That is where the challenge is. If you are talking about well-established political parties and they are saying: ‘look, your focus and our focus are the same and, therefore, who are we competing with that political party because that is the party that is different from us,’ then an alliance is going to work. But if you are just going to do it for the sake of saying ‘let’s come together and field one candidate,’ but in other things, you don’t agree at all, it will not work so that is where the challenge is,” said Prof Phiri.

“If anything when you are talking about a ward; it is a very small position what is best is that the candidate you have agreed [should contest]. So, if you talk about a constituency, at a constituency-level, it is even more challenging because you are talking about a leader who is going to be elected to go in Parliament. Now, if two political parties have never worked together, but they just want to have an alliance so that it can field a candidate in order to defeat the other political party, you might find that, that kind of alliance is not very strong.”