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Zambia readies for presidential vote

Published on 19/01/2015

Zambian political parties on Monday wrapped up their campaigns ahead of a special presidential election called following the death of president Michael Sata last year.

The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) held its final rally in Lusaka’s Woodlands suburb, presenting a united front at a rally after a bitter succession battle left it scarred.

After weeks of haggling and mudslinging, the party settled on defence Minister Edgar Lungu as its candidate last month.

Two opposing camps — one led by Lungu and another by acting president Guy Scott — had initially nominated rival presidential candidates.

Lungu downplayed the infighting that had rocked the PF saying it was a sign of democracy in the party which only came to power in 2011 after a decade in opposition.

Interim president Scott, who was a close ally and friend of Sata, evoked the legacy of the late president, telling supporters that “Michael Sata is still the spirit behind this party”.

Africa’s first white leader in 20 years, Scott could not stand for the presidency himself as his parents were not born in Zambia.

Rupiah Banda, a former president and opposition politician who was ousted by the PF in the 2011 elections, threw his weight behind Lungu.

Banda predicted a “revolutionary victory” for the PF candidate saying he had chosen to “endorse Lungu because he is humble and educated, he is not like others who are boastful.”

The election campaign has generally been peaceful.

But the electoral commission Chairwoman Irene Mambilima said she had “noted with dismay some incidents of violence that have occurred.”

“It so regretable that in this era political parties will go to the extent of injuring one other on grounds of ideologies,” she told reporters on Monday.

In an address to the nation late Monday night, Scott vowed to crackdown on any post-election violence, warning it “will be dealt with very firmly.”

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders condemned “attacks on media pluralism” during the presidential campaign after reports PF supporters harassed and threatened several Zambian news organisations.

It also said Zambian public broadcaster ZNBC was biased against the opposition.