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Zambia Ruling Party Warns Supporters Over Possible Divisions

FILE - Zambia President Edgar Lungu attends the opening ceremony of the 24th Ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2015.

Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front party has warned its members that it is the prerogative of incumbent President Edgar Lungu to choose his vice presidential running mate before the August 11 presidential and legislative elections.

But the Patriotic Front says it is not against party members who aspire to higher position, including becoming the vice presidential nominee to partner with Lungu.

Some of the aspiring candidates have met with chiefs and other stakeholders, while a few threatened to quit the party if they are not chosen to be the vice presidential candidate. The Patriotic Front warned members not to engage in acts that could divide the party.

Selecting running mates

“The problem we have is that some of the people nominated as a running mate are doing it in a manner that is exposing [a] notorious appetite for power. That is exposing greed and thirst for power in a manner that makes us fear that such characters would be a danger working as vice president to our beloved president. That is the main concerns that we have,” said Father Frank Bwalya, deputy PF spokesman.

“It is this dangerous [quest] for power that we think is wrong, and therefore anybody who is engaged in this kind of lobbying, which is unacceptable in our party is effectively disqualifying himself or herself.”

Bwalya says the party is against scenarios in other countries, particularly in Africa where friction between the president and the vice president caused a rift within the party and adversely affected the smooth running of the respective nations.

Some party supporters have urged President Lungu to choose a new vice presidential candidate, while others say current Vice President Inonge Wina should be maintained as the running mate.

“The president is going to choose his running mate freely without any blackmail, without any coercion from anyone. And we condemn anyone who is lobbying in a manner that we think is wrong and in a manner in fact these ambitious people are having dangerous ambitions for president,” he said.

Constitutional amendments

Zambia recently adopted new laws, after President Lungu signed a constitutional amendment bill passed in parliament. Among the amendments is a provision to allow the incumbent president to choose a new running mate, if he so desires.

But opposition and civil society groups say the government “cherry-picked” provisions in the constitution, while those the party is against are being put to a referendum. They contend that Zambians had overwhelmingly demanded a referendum on the draft constitutional amendment bill before the president signed it.

But PF deputy spokesman Bwalya says more than 80 percent of the public approved of the adopted constitutional provisions, which he says were backed by the opposition parties. The other new provisions, Bwalya says, would have deep financial implications that could make their implementation difficult.

“Civil society, the church and our development partners agree with us, and Zambians agree with us, that we have taken on board 80 percent of what Zambians wanted to see in the new constitution. It is not the PF party that sought to do that, it was done in parliament,” said Bwalya.

“All the 80 percent that we have taken onboard Hakainde Hichilema and his party were championing the same clauses in the new constitution. But because 20 percent had not been taken onboard and for good reasons for that matter, they want to say the whole process is a sham, and they were part of the process.”