The national secretary of Zambia’s opposition Movement for Multi-Party Democracy said it had begun talks with President Edgar Lungu and his ruling party about forming an alliance ahead of the August 11 general election.
Raphael Nakachinda also denied media reports that a dispute within the MMD, the second-biggest opposition group, could derail any possible alliance with the Patriotic Front.
He said the move to confer with the PF resulted from a new constitutional provision requiring majority support to win an election. Previously, a candidate could be declared the winner with less than 50 percent of the vote.
“President Lungu was not shy to indicate that for that to be attainable, he needed to work with other political parties," Nakachinda said, adding that the MMD was one of the parties Lungu said he could work with. "The prospects are very high.”
The MMD, Nakachinda said, "could go into an alliance as long as we are able to develop a developmental agenda that’s mutually agreed upon."
Local media reported an apparent split within the MMD after a faction of the party led by Nevers Mumba, a former presidential candidate, publicly endorsed main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development.
This followed the Electoral Commission of Zambia's call for the MMD to resolve its internal problems before it would recognize newly elected party leader Felix Mutati as the presidential candidate in the coming polls.
The commission has already recognized Mumba as the MMD candidate because he made a down payment on his nomination fees. But it said it would recognize Mutati after the MMD resolved its internal problems.
The MMD's Nakachinda said Mumba was to blame for the confusion.
“It was literally mischievous of him, because first of all, before going into any election as MMD, it is expected that we go to a convention, seek the mandate of our membership, and then from there, that’s when you can begin to engage as a presidential candidate," Nakachinda said. Mumba "disregarded everything and went and paid while we were still resolving issues."
Now, however, the MMD has an official standard-bearer, which “we will now communicate officially to all stakeholders," Nakachinda said.
He called Mumba's backing of Hichilema "a personal endorsement with a clique of a few individuals that he has been working with.”
Lungu is expected to face stiff competition from Hichilema in the August election.