Well today is election day in Zambia. The embassy has advised that we have a week's worth of food, water, and cell phone time and that we stay in unless we have an emergency. We're praying for peace but also being prepared. Elections in the past have led to some riots, mob violence and looting. Please Pray for Peace!! Here's the scoop on the elections as far as I can tell.
The ruling party - Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) is presided over by President Ruphia Banda. The opposition party is the Patriotic Front led by Sata (see above). As far as I can tell Sata is a more liberal (think Democrat) candidate; he talks a lot about serving the poor and about making sure that extractive industries like copper mining which is non-sustainable, have long term positive impacts for all Zambians, not just extracting companies and countries. These things sound good to me but talk like this worries me in light of Mugabe's rule of Zimbabwe (same party) which has terrorized and murdered foreigners and especially white farmers while not actually improving the situation for the majority of Zimbabweans. The other disconcerting thing about the PF is that they seem to be mostly comprised of rowdy drunken youths hanging out of speeding Hilux pickups shouting "Don't Kubeba!" and inciting violence. Regardless, the PF's "Don't Kubeba" campaign is brilliant. It basically means "Don't Tell." Hense the finger over the mouth pic -shhhhh. The idea is that the MMD is going to be handing out money and gifts like hats, tshirts and chitenges in return for votes and that you should take their money and gifts and then not tell them that your are still secretly voting for the PF. It creates a sense of secret unity among PF voters while stabbing at the MMD. Genius.
Most Zambians I know are voting for Banda (unless they're just not "Kubeba"ing me). They see him as stable and that his policies have kept Zambia out of any major trouble during his years in office and they feel like they can trust things to at least stay as good as they are and not get worse with him continuing in office. They're also impressed by the way the MMD is allowing PF to run an open and popular opposition campaign without terrorizing or disappearing opposition leaders as has happened in the past.
Polls have put PF in the lead but most people I've talked to have said that MMD will win in a landslide. Either way there is sure to be violence. The cadres will certainly be fighting and rioting in town. But there is the possibility of serious instability for a while - if PF wins they might go nuts like when teams win championships and their home town goes burns the city in joy. Or something. If they lose they're gonna cry foul and do the same thing. So pray for peace and that the elections would be clearly fair and that the people of Zambia will accept the results.