Zambia ruling party splits ahead of polls

Factions in Patriotic Front select rival candidates for next month’s vote, raising possibility opposition could win.

President Sata's death in October saw his deputy Scott take over as interim president [File: AFP]

A major split in Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has seen two factions select rival candidates for presidential elections next month, raising the possibility that the opposition could snatch victory.

A faction loyal to acting president Guy Scott chose late president Michael Sata’s nephew Miles Sampa as its candidate on Monday night, a day after Defence Minister Edgar Lungu was named by a breakaway group.

“The PF in its current form is a weak ruling party and there is a possibility that it can lose the elections,” political analyst Neo Simutanyi told the AFP news agency.

The simmering split deepened after Sata’s death in October, when Vice President Scott took over as interim president and sacked Lungu as secretary-general of the party – before reversing the decision after riots broke out.

Political bickering 

“Dr Scott hates me for one reason or another,” Lungu told supporters after claiming the presidential candidacy for the party faction. “It’s like Dr Scott wants the party to die.”

Scott – Africa’s first white leader in 20 years – told delegates at a party conference to ignore Lungu’s claim to the presidential candidacy, and Sampa was elected over four other candidates including Sata’s widow Christine.

Born in Zambia to a Scottish father and an English mother, Scott is barred by the constitution from running for president.

“The problems in PF cannot be resolved through reconciliation but one group should leave,” political analyst Simutanyi said. “As things stand, the opposition has a better chance of winning.”

Serious opposition contenders to lead the copper-rich nation would be United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema and former president Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy.

Source: AFP