Why Zambians Living Abroad Should Not Be Allowed To Vote In Zambian Elections

By IAfrica
In Zambia
Aug 16th, 2014

Time Posted: August 16, 2014 1:49 pm

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
?Larry J. Sabato

There have been many debates about “Dual Citizenship” by many Zambians living abroad. The stance is that their migration should not hinder them from securing the citizenship of their adopted country and their birth country. There are some intelligent arguments for dual citizenship and some are simply absurd. The most intelligent argument is premised on the economic value of Zambians securing both citizenship and the legal protection they would receive as citizens of Zambia living abroad but making economic investments in Zambia. The preference for most Zambians would be the adoption of a citizenship in their new country, but still make economic investments in Zambia. If dual citizenship is not granted, then their economic transactions will not carry the same protection that it would carry if Zambians living abroad retained their Zambian citizenship. An arrangement that grants Zambians an opportunity to carry dual citizenship without a doubt will enrich the economics and politics of Zambia.

The Zambian government should grant dual citizenship to Zambians living abroad but understandably those holding two citizenship will automatically relinquish occupying sensitive government positions. Of course one can NEVER run for president of Zambia if they hold two citizenship. This should be clear and straightforward, but what is not clear is the level of political involvement that Zambians in the diaspora have or should be allowed to have in local, provincial and national politics.

While dual citizenship favors the economics of our country, it doesn’t favor the politics. The general consensus is that Zambians living abroad will have economic and logistical leverage to influence politics in Zambia. This ranges from writing articles in newspapers and financing campaigns in Zambia. This influence is crucial enough to change the direction of the country and the leaders that have been elected to run Zambia. The greater problem, though, is that while diasporians may exercise great influence on the politics in Zambia they will not suffer the consequence of what their influence produces. If by financing a political party like the UPND, diasporians assist the party to enter office then what level of “responsibility” will they actually have if UPND doesn’t rule the country as their campaign speeches have indicated? As is the case for diasporians, the only thing that will change is their tone on internet blogs; but the people suffering will be the native Zambians who will be directly affected by the decisions that the leaders elected with influence from diasporians make.

Diasporians, or Zambians who live abroad, should therefore not be allowed to vote in Zambian elections. I’m sure many would disagree with this as disfranchisement but let’s be sensible and look at the reality of politics. If I live in Kabushi constituency it is important that I pay close attention to the leaders that I will elect to represent the parliamentary seat of Kabushi. The logic is that if a road is not paved, I have to drive my car on it, if the schools are horrible, my children will suffer from the substandard education, if Masala clinic doesn’t have medicine I will feel the pain of having to transport my sick child to Ndola Central hospital just to get some treatment. Whereas, if a diasporian participated in the election of an MP, they will not have to suffer any of those leadership short-comings of the people they elected. Their vote counts the same as the person who actually lives in Kabushi, but they will not carry as much responsibility for their vote. This is a matter of “real stakeholders” and “non –stakeholders”; those who are legitimate stakeholders should have the right to influence an election far much more than those who are not real stakeholders. As Larry Sabato said, “Every election is determined by those who show up.” But I would prefer that every election to be determined by those who actually live in the communities the leader is trying to represent.

Diasporians can participate in Zambian politics in realms that affect them. One of the biggest issues that diasporians have is dual citizenship; and they should be allowed to influence leaders who stand for and support granting dual citizenship. But an excessive influence in local, provincial and national politics should be cautioned; because the political interests of Zambians living in Zambia and Zambians living abroad may not be aligned; and we should favor the political interests of Zambians in Zambia because they have to live in the conditions that their political leaders create.

By George Mtonga

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