WHEN politicians are governing a country, we often remind them that power ultimately belongs to the people. We caution politicians to exercise the authority of their offices, bearing in mind that a time will come when they will be answerable to the citizens. Here in Zambia, every five years, the people gather on one big day to judge the performance of the sitting government and then decide who to give a fresh mandate to rule.

But there is one condition that the people have to satisfy before they can have that power to judge the performance of the sitting government or to decide who to give the mandate to take charge of the country’s leadership. This condition is simply that an eligible citizen must register to vote. Our people need to engage with the Electoral Commission of Zambia officials and be counted.

Those who have been spending hours on social media saying “I can’t wait for 2021”, this is the time, the road to 2021 starts with the registration process. All the hullabaloo about power belonging to the people is useless if you do not register to vote. All those who have been making noise about eligibility of some presidential candidates must know that they, too, will be ineligible to vote if they don’t register.

Just imagine being in a situation where the country is deciding on its leaders and you have no say in it! Imagine a population rallying behind the most disgraced politicians as a preferred candidate in an election and you cannot do anything about it because you did not register to vote! This is what will happen to those who will not register to vote in the coming month. A democracy is worthless if the people don’t participate in the electoral process.

A prisoner cannot dictate to the prison authorities how he must be treated, but that’s because he is a prisoner in the first place. Citizens who are living in a free world, in a democracy have the power to dictate how they must be government, how their government leaders must behave. They have the power to discipline non-performing leaders by voting them out of office and putting in new office bearers. They have an opportunity to rule themselves by making sure that they elect people who represent their interests. But to do this, one needs to first register to vote.

Political parties must desist from discouraging their supporters from registering to vote. Some party leaders have been demonizing the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s decision to create a new voters’ register and in the process, they have been unwittingly sending discouraging messages to the electorate. Some people feel if they register to vote, they will be endorsing an evil plan by the Patriotic Front to rig the 2021 general elections. But this is not correct.

In fact, it’s conspiracy theories like that which lead to the opposition losing elections because they spend more time chasing ghosts instead of voters. Voters are out there waiting to hear from their leaders. The message from opposition political leaders must therefore be persuading people to register. This is what their rivals in the Patriotic Front have been doing. They have gone in overdrive registering voters while those in the opposition are fighting the Commission. But you cannot spend all the energy fighting the registration process with conspiracy theories. Tell your people to register to vote, that’s the first step to election victory.

Like we stated in our previous editorial opinion, the winner of the 2021 election is he who will get his supporters to register as voters. Voting is the first duty of democracy. In a democracy, your vote is your voice and your voice is your vote. “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other man’s consent.” That’s what Abraham Lincoln believed in and this is true.

If you don’t vote during an election, you are surely voting indirectly against democracy and making way for irresponsible leaders. By not voting, you give away your right to influence the government. Your vote alone can make a difference because an election can be decided by just a single, solitary vote or handful of votes. This is especially true under a 50 per cent plus one voting threshold that we have in Zambia. It all starts with the registration process. Go, register so that you can take part in the 2021 election. Tomorrow never comes, do it today!