By DARLINGTON CHILUBA
THE mere act of elections does not imply the presence of democracy or recognition of civil liberties.
Elections, in and of themselves, are a mere arranged activity intended to either affirm or justify the validity of an outcome as consensual.
Where elections are genuinely in the hands of the voters, the outcome cannot be predetermined even when there is a clear favourite.
When the outcome is not a matter of choice, then it is clear that people do not hold power.
The central issue in all politics is power. At the grand or national level, the question of power is whether the economy should be equal to, or greater than the political structure and vice-versa.
The concentration of power in the economy has the potential to undermine balanced regulation and exclude the poor from benefitting from national resources.
Conversely, concentration of that power in the political structure has often created dictatorships. The result has been centralised decision-making and an absence of private enterprise because the state owns the factors of production, whether mines, companies and so on.
Here, economic resources are used for the preserve of the ruling elite and the party in office which often leads to economic decisions being made not for economic efficiency, but rather political reasons.
It is not surprising in such environments to find that social activity is limited so that all political activity gives the impression of a harmonious society. In other words, multi-party activity is frowned upon and misrepresented so that people are made to believe unity and harmony only exist when contestation is avoided.
In South America, Eastern Europe and Africa these systems of government were operative in the 1960s until the late 1980s.
History shows that such command states relied on the military (or security) structure to maintain power and instil fear in the populace, thus dissuading any hope for alternative political leadership.
Therefore, the pillars that define the normal order of a nation are rearranged to justify centralised power and ensure that all sectors of society sit below that hierarchy.
In short, instead of the three basic structures or pillars – economic, political and social, the order is different. Politics will dominate the economic pillar for obvious reasons because the state and the leadership must be the only ones with financial resources.
But more poignantly, the social structure will be either suppressed or replaced by the military or security structure under the disguise of national order, national threat or whatever is convenient.
A centralised political and economic environment that suppresses or subdues the social pillar cannot be called free. By extension, elections held under such an environment are an activity of state than a civil right.
This is because the people are not given carte blanche to elect leaders of their choice. The leaders are imposed on the people. There is no electorate per se because the meaning of this word “electorate” entails an entitlement to vote, or to choose. In other words, it is an inherent right and not a gift by the state and its leaders.
The absence of an electorate makes the election the choice of the leader, not the people. It is not enough that people vote, but there must be an intrinsic purpose and choice of their own to exercise that right.
If the outcome is known, if the choice of leader(s) is already given, this cannot be called democratic. For example, the late former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein was known to secure up to 100 percent of the vote during his time in office in 2002 and earlier won 99.96 percent in 1995 (see, inter alia,. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/oct/16/iraq). The outcome, the leader and the purpose was the making of the state, not the people.
The Third Republic, beginning in November 1991 after the change in government from one-party state to a democracy in Zambia, represented a change so that the direction and authority of the political and economic pillars now became a determination of society.
This was a genuine rebirth of the electorate where people willingly voted from a vast array of choices. There were no longer negative consequences to choosing a leader of one’s own liking. The military or security structure no longer protected the political elite but became custodian of civil liberties of the people.
In a country that celebrates everything, there is no known time at which the emancipation of Zambian society is celebrated; when people became masters of their destiny to create the Zambia we now live in. One of the worst and often ignored crimes about history is when it is ignored or hidden from people. The struggle for the third republic has unfortunately been kept from people who in the end, will not understand the source of their emancipation