THE VOICE OPINION; UPND Will lose the 2026 Elections
By Daimone Siulapwa
President Hakainde Hichilema and his UPND new dawn government should begin to realize that they are living on borrowed time. The earlier they do that the better for them because voters are clearly disenchanted.
There is generally economic decline in the country and the cost of living has gone up despite the interventions the New Dawn government has put up to mitigate matters. Business opportunities that were there doing the PF reign have vanished in thin air and it is difficult to fathom why this is so.
Even the cost of borrowing has upped as the Bank of Zambia has increased the Monitoring Policy Ration (MPR) by 25 basis points from 9.25 % to 9.50% meaning if one has a loan, they either have to negotiate for an extended tenure or pay more in instalments. Added to this is the ever increasing cost of fuel and electricity tariffs which have left masses in a state of despair.
As if this is not enough, the UPND government has stifled farmers – choking them to the brink of death. The UPND has stopped the issuance of export permits for agriculture produce like maize and soya and it has also put in place rigidities that are impeding the smooth transportation of agro produce by local buyers such as millers.
President Hichilema and his new dawn government seem not to realize that the agriculture sector is the country’s biggest employer and thus when it is impacted negatively, the greater population is suffers.
The more strategic opposition parties like the PF are already leveraging on this lapse by the UPND government who seem to have an uncoordinated media team. Further, the increasingly sophisticated electorates have left the ruling party increasingly susceptible to election defeat in 2026.
The UPND must learn from the PF that despite the rise of more sophisticated strategies of election rigging and censorship, elections can still be lost. Even in places where governments remain undefeated, such as Namibia and South Africa, the gap between the ruling party and the opposition has narrowed considerably.
The message for the ruling party is clear: perform poorly in the context of economic decline, and you are operating on borrowed time.
The success of the opposition will likely be driven by the coalescence of a number of factors including the failure by the UPND to lower the cost of living and their failure to take care of their disgruntled foot soldiers.
Additionally, the UPND ought to realize that most of the people who voted for them in the 2021 polls were swing voters who are not apolitical per se. The country now has increasingly well-educated electorates with considerable experience of multiparty politics and it is these that are increasingly frustrated with the poorly performing UPND government.
While support for the UPND government still remains robust, satisfaction with how democracy and the economy is performing has declined, and there is still a growing recognition of the impact of corruption on public services and the lives of citizens. Furthermore, nepotism and tribalism is still at bay.
In comparison to the PF, there are falling levels of business opportunities during the UPND reign and this has led to eroded savings giving rise to increased prices which are causing real pain for citizens.
Evidently, the UPND is having difficulties in sustaining living standards and it has given public criticism of corruption greater bite yet it has blown wind into the sails of opposition leaders.
Support for opposition PF is suddenly getting higher because citizens have started believing that the economy is badly managed by the UPND, they are less satisfied with public services, and they are appalled with the rising cost of living.
Evidently, the ruling party is underperforming – neither ethnicity, patrimonialism, nor clientelism will insulate the UPND government from an electoral defeat in 2026. So how can the UPND government respond?
The ruling party can insulate themselves against these trends in two main ways: maintaining legitimacy and increasing repression both of which they are not doing right now.
This raises the question of where legitimacy comes from. Legitimacy stems from responding adequately to popular expectations. It can be built up, like capital, by showing a track record of delivering what people value most.
But is the UPND doing that to the expectations of the people – NO! Indeed the UPND has brought about freedoms by ending caderism but just like citizens want to go about their lives unthreatened, they also want to be economically comfortable.
Alas the UPND government is not offering their population economic opportunities and affording them essential services while improving the economy so as to enjoy stronger legitimacy.
The UPND government has failed to establish a good record on the twin pillars of stability and economic well-being which they would have leveraged to draw down on their reserve of legitimacy when times are hard as will be the case in the next two years.
But the UPND government seem not inclined to move in this direction because they are too incompetent to do so and the sad reality is that there are high levels of opposition support now, particularly for the PF, which may lead to political change in 2026.
In other words, there may be a ‘reincarnation’ of the former ruling party PF in 2026 because the UPND has been swayed into grossly destabilizing the opposition and perceived dissenters through clientelism, patronage politics and extra-legal means, thereby undermining the provision of social justice.*