from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – UNANIMOUSLY declared the flag-bearer of the ruling party, whose prospects have been boosted by the upheavals within the main opposition, incumbents Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF) are a good bet to maintain their stranglehold on the Zambian political landscape.
The Southern African country is preparing for general elections to be held on August 12.
PF,in power since 2011, and its main challenger in the recent polls –the United Party for National Development (UPND) are experiencing contrasting fortunes ahead of the elections.
While the ruling party has proved a united entity as the election fever grips the minerals-rich country, its rival led by businessman Haikande Hichilema is beset by internal squabbles.
This infighting has worked in favour of PF, which has received some prominent members defecting from its rival.
Earlier, Lungu received a major boost in his quest for a second term after his party declared him as its candidate.
He was unopposed during the PF’s recently-concluded, virtual elective conference.
Accepting the nomination, Lungu expressed satisfaction at the ruling party’s manifesto for the last election in 2016.
The election blueprint was premised on socio-economic diversification, poverty reduction and ensuring meaningful participation of Zambians in the local economy.
UPND was critical of Lungu’s first term.
“There is really nothing meaningful which the party can do over the next five years that will address the backlog of unfulfilled promises,” the opposition stated.
Meanwhile, the UPND ship is sailing in unsteady waters.
It has lost several key members to Lungu’s party.
Members of Parliament, Teddy Kasonso and Prof Geoffrey Lungwangwa, are the latest individuals to cross the floor.
Other recent heavyweight defectors include Davies Chiko, Moses Chiyuka, Jackson Makwamba, Victor Chibiya Maliti and Davies Sumaili. Ephraim Kaang’andu Belemu, seen as a close ally of Hichilema’s has also left UNPD for PF.
Generally a peaceful country, however, polls held in 2016 were characterised by tensions.
Riots broke out in some parts of the country after UPND alleged fraud.
Lungu won 50,35 percent of the vote ahead of Hichilema, who polled 47,63 percent.
More than 6,69 million Zambians voted, representing a voter turnout of 56,45 percent.
Lungu recently pledged the government’s commitment to credible polls.
He told ambassadors accredited to his country that Zambian polls had been peaceful since the advent of a multiparty system in 1991.
“My government is committed to ensuring that the legacy which Zambia is renowned for is upheld,” the president assured.
Economic challenges precede the August poll.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast the economy to grow by 0,6 percent in 2020, as the aftermath of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Last November, Zambia defaulted on a US$42.5 million payment on a Eurobond.
The Kwacha (ZMW) currency is on a decline.
It opened trade on Wednesday at USD/ZMW22,4.
Rand Merchant Bank projects it to close the year at 24,32 to the US currency.
– CAJ News