Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election Fever

Election Fever rages in Zambia. There is talk of little else. Posters plaster billboards and outside walls. I haven’t seen campaign T-shirts, but there are colorful chitenges (2-meter lengths of cloth worn as skirts) printed with the smiling images of presidential candidates.

On Thursday Zambians will choose the successor to President Levy Mwanawasa who died in August. The acting president Rupia Banda is faced off against Hakainde Hichilema and Michael Sata.

Banda served as vice president under Mwanawasa and is a member of the party currently in control of Parliament. His campaign stresses stability and unity. Hachilema, or “HH” as he is called, is from the Southern Province where we live. He is independently wealthy and promises to encourage economic growth. Michael Sata came in second to Mwanawasa in the 2006 election. He rails against foreign influence in Zambia, especially the Chinese. During the 2006 campaign he voiced his admiration for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Sata made a campaign appearance in Kalomo on Sunday, arriving in a black helicopter. Hachilema gathered a Kalomo crowd on Tuesday, including many of our students who cut classes to hear him speak. A couple of the HIZ students managed make it to the event as well.

Yesterday there were reports of riots in Livingstone over suspected ballot rigging. Late yesterday we received a warning from the American Embassy, advising Americans to stay clear of all campaign gatherings, polling places, and election events for the next few days.

Zambians have no option except to vote in their home districts, so students who live far away are excused from classes the rest of this week so that they have time to travel home for voting. Election Day on Thursday is a school holiday everywhere in Zambia.

We mailed in our absentee ballots for the US elections. Now we watch and wait and pray for elections on two continents.

David found a thought-provoking article by John Piper that provides a faith perspective on the election process. You might want to take a look at it.

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