In Zambia, the presidential election in 2015 is a by-election caused by the death of the country’s former president, Michael Sata, in October 2014. Since his death Sata’s party, the Patriotic Front (currently the most widely supported party in Zambia), has suffered a split over who should be nominated as the party’s presidential candidate. This split led to two separate party conferences being held, with each contending that they had selected the party’s candidate. On 4th December 2014, the Zambian High Court ruled that defense and justice minister Edgar Lungu was the sole legal candidate. However, the decision was contentious and the candidate elected at the second conference, Miles Sampa, declared that he was appealing against the court’s decision. Sampa also appeared to have the support of acting President Guy Scott, who reportedly wrote a letter to acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, arguing that the country’s highest court should not allow Lungu’s nomination papers to be filed until Sampa’s court challenge is resolved. It was reported that in response to this move by Scott, Lungu, with the support of the Central Committee, fired Scott as vice president of the party. It is not clear what legal force this dismissal has.
Although, at the time of writing, Scott appears now to be in support of Lungu’s candidacy, after calling for unity within the party and endorsing Lungu at a Patriotic Front rally on 21st December, it is not clear whether Lungu will be able to garner the full support of the party. Sampa, following his failure to challenge Lungu’s Patriotic Front candidacy, has declared that he will form a new party which he will run for next year. He also added that the reconciliation in the Patriotic Front is merely “cosmetic” and that divisions still remain. Under such conditions there is a possibility that the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) candidate, former president Rupiah Banda, or the United Party for National Development (UPND) candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, could seriously challenge Lungu and the Patriotic Front. This has the potential to increase political risk in the country, as during closely contested by-elections in August 2014, the UPND accused the Patriotic Front of transporting cadres to different areas in order to cause unrest and intimidate voters. In certain areas violence broke out amongst cadres from each party and some officials were seriously injured. Thus, as the presidential election approaches there is a strong possibility of similar civil unrest involving party cadres, especially if the election appears to be very close.
[The above is an extract from a comprehensive report on the political outlook for Africa in 2015 which will be distributed to clients in the New Year]