No one should be surprised at the poor turn-out in the by-elections held in Kitwe and Ndola yesterday.

Historically, by-elections do not attract a lot of interest and generally suffer from apathy as the voters tend to stay away.

But in most cases, these are held under ideal electoral conditions devoid of what the country has experienced in the last few months in the Kabushi and Kwacha parliamentary by-elections.

The by-elections conducted in Kitwe and Ndola yesterday cannot be said to have been held under a conducive environment when one considers that only one political party was able to campaign.

This is the more reason why we are not surprised at the very poor turnout of the registered voters.

They are simply sending an emphatic message to the establishment that they would not allow themselves to be part and parcel of what they consider to be a sham election in which certain people were barred from appearing on the ballot papers.

For now, the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) is gloating at having out manoevred the Patriotic Front into not fielding candidates for the two parliamentary seats it held and lost through electoral petitions.

The UPND has been able to do this through the court process that culminated into Thursday’s express judgement by the Constitutional Court clearing the way for the by-elections to go ahead.

Before its late judgement on Thursday, there had been a stay in the by-election that was ordered by the High Court and upheld by the Court of Appeal.

In what is probably a precedent in the country’s history, the ConCourt was able to meet the same day and cancel out the earlier ruling of the Court of Appeal. 

Thus the High Court order to stay the Kabushi and Kwacha parliamentary by-elections was annulled by the Constitutional Court to allow for the by-elections to proceed as scheduled by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).

With the ruling, the ConCourt ruled that the 21 days in which the High Court is expected to determine the Kabushi and Kwacha by-elections had elapsed, thus, the order suspending the elections was null and void.

The ConCourt also affirmed that the Court of Appeal does not have jurisdiction to hear appeals to cases whatsoever dealing with Article 52(4) of the Constitution.

Even the run up leading to Thursday’s ruling was marred in controversy with a recent ruling by the ECZ that it would go ahead with the by-election when there was already a stay in place.

Adding to the drama against the pending court cases, President Hakainde Hichilema made a two-day whirlwind campaign tour of the two constituencies long before anyone had an inkling of what was to come.

We can probably deduce that there was a “third force” that pushed for the by-elections to go ahead at any cost.

But it is at a cost to the future of the country’s democracy and yesterday’s abysmal voter turnout is a rejection of a sham election by the people who matter – the voters.

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