The body of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa who died last
month in Paris, France from complication of a stroke will be lay to rest this
Wednesday, September 3 in Lusaka. But already the contest for his successor
within the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) is intensifying. The
frontrunners are vice president and acting president Rupiah Banda and Finance
and National Planning Minister Ng'andu Magande. First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa
has added to the drama by endorsing Finance Minister Ng'ande to succeed her
husband. She said her late husband had told her he would like for Ng'ande to
succeed him after his second and final five-year term ends in 2011.
of Vice President Banda, the other aspiring successor to President Mwanawasa
dismissed the first lady's claims as false. So far, 16 aspiring candidates have
filed their nomination papers ahead of the presidential election.
is a political science professor at the University of Zambia. He tells reporter
Peter Clottey from the capital, Lusaka that the ongoing process to find
Mwanawasa's successor is test for the ruling MMD party's internal democracy.
"This is a real test of
intra-party democracy. The majority of the applicants are standing cabinet
ministers within the ruling party and others are people who held key positions
within the party before, and some prominent persons within the Zambian society.
I said it is a test of intra-party democracy because all of them are free to
apply, but then the real test will come with the selection mechanism and what
happens thereafter, whether people will rally be behind the candidate that
would be chosen without weakening the party in terms of split and other
breakaway groups," Mtesa pointed out.
He said the First Lady's
endorsement of finance minister Magande could cut both ways.
"Obviously the statement by
the first lady is bound to tilt support in favor of the finance minister, but
the real power at the moment lies within the National Executive Committee of
the ruling party, which is going to decide, which candidate to settle on, and
the first lady is not a member of that committee. And since Dr. Mwanawasa is
not here to corroborate that statement she made, and I'm not saying she lied,
but it just means that it is the men and women in the national executive
committee that will have the final say on who succeeds the late President
Mwanawasa," he said.
Mtesa said the time for the
presidential election is so short it might level the playing field ahead of the
election for both the ruling party and the other opposition parties.
"I would say everybody has a
chance, and that depends on how they go about their campaigns. Time is short of
course, and we are just hoping that the electoral commission will put all the
logistics in place to allow for election that will be accepted as having been
free and fair by all the political parties," Mtesa noted.
He said the recently held general
election is still fresh on the minds of Zambians.
"I would say we are just two
years away from the last election, and people still remember who campaigned
where and what they stood for. Of course the environment has changed, but not
very fundamentally. So it is going to be an exciting election I would say," he
Mtesa said the reported rift
within the ruling party could spell doom for the party if not resolved ahead of
the upcoming presidential election.
"It definitely does not help
the course of the ruling MMD in plural political environment to wash their
dirty linen in public. And really we are waiting to see what the outcome of
this intra-party competition will mean for the future of the party," Mtesa
observes said the high number of presidential hopefuls may be a sign of deep
divisions in the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy. The main opposition Patriotic Front leader
Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National
Development, the third biggest party in parliament, will also contest the
Meanwhile, Magande and
Vice president Banda, who is now acting president, have emerged as the
strongest contenders. The MMD will select a candidate on September 5, two days
after Mwanawasa's funeral. Mwanawasa had led Zambia since 2001 and was
re-elected in 2006. His tough stance against corruption endeared him to donor
countries and he was credited for turning the southern African nation into one
of Africa's economic success stories.