Zambia’s main opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has vowed to boycott two parliamentary by-elections scheduled to be held next week.
Deputy MMD Secretary-General Chembe Nyangu says supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) have been intimidating and harassing supporters of the opposition in the run up to the vote.
"We are not interested in going into a by-election, which we know that PF has already manipulated, and they are going to win those elections, because they are going to intimidate the opposition,” said Nyangu.
His comments came after the MMD accused the ruling party of trying to create a one-party state by weakening opposition parties in the country. The PF rejects the accusation.
Zambia’s electoral body plans to organize parliamentary by-elections in both Kapiri-Mposhi and Lukulu West constituencies after legislators defected to the ruling PF party.
When legislators defect, new elections are supposed to be organized to replace the departing legislators as enshrined in the constitution.
The ruling party, Nyangu says, uses the power of incumbency to win by-elections to ensure its parliamentary majority.
“There is no level-playing field in any by-election because these are planned by-elections by the Patriotic Front. So even if the opposition participates in this election there is nothing that we can win because they have actually made it a point that they have to go to one party state,” said Nyangu.
“All the PF wants to do is to ensure that they win all the by-elections so that they can muscle the number to 106 in parliament,” he said. “Then after doing that they can do whatever they want with the constitution to suit them.”
Nyangu says the PF is making it difficult for opposition parties to play their role in the country’s democratic system.
It was not clear, however, if Hakainde Hichilema’s opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) will also boycott the parliamentary by-elections.
The MMD has often accused President Michael Sata’s government of encouraging opposition legislators to defect to the ruling party by appointing them to Cabinet-level jobs without consultations.
But, Sata has said he is willing to work with all parliamentarians who have the country’s best interest at heart regardless of their political affiliation.
“What we are going to do now is to exert our energy to reorganize ourselves from the grassroots so that coming 2016, we remove PF from government, because if we keep them there they would definitely take his country 40 years backward,” said Nyangu.