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Zambia President Lungu Vows to Pick Female Running Mate 

FILE - The Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, right, is sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony in Lusaka, Jan. 25, 2015. Lungu says he will nominate a female vice presidential running mate for his re-election bid in the August 11, 2016, general election. 

Zambia President Edgar Lungu says he will nominate a female vice presidential running mate for his re-election bid in the August 11 general election.

Speaking to women's groups at a breakfast meeting in the capital, Lusaka, Lungu encouraged women to participate in the country’s governance, including in the upcoming general election.

Lungu said he will continue appointing women to positions of influence in his administration, taking a cue from deceased president Michael Sata.

Lungu, a former cabinet minister, was elected in a presidential by-election in the southern African nation after Sata died abroad where he had gone to seek medical treatment.

Ruling party members

Prominent members of the ruling Patriotic Front party have been lobbying and jostling to be chosen to partner with Lungu in the upcoming poll.

“[Lungu] said if you are a man and you are thinking that you are going to be my running mate, you will not be, because my running mate is going to be a woman,” said Frank Bwalya, deputy spokesman for the PF.

The president's pronouncement led local media reports and political commentators to speculate he would retain Vice President Inonge Wina as his running mate for the upcoming elections. Lungu made a surprise choice when he nominated Wina as his running mate, sidelining Guy Scott who was vice president under Sata.

Bwalya said Lungu’s supporters have nicknamed him a man who walks the talk, because of his work ethic toward keeping his promises to the people.

“What he says is what he does, what he preaches is what he does.So since he preaches gender equality it is very clear that driven by that kind of consideration he thinks the right thing for us to do as PF is to adopt a woman as a running mate. In more or less the same he has picked a woman as vice president.What this means is that after 11 August 2016, we are going to have again a woman as vice president because automatically, the running mate is going to become the vice president,’ said Bwalya.

Opposition criticisms

But, opposition parties have criticized Lungu’s administration as incapable of resolving the economic challenges the country faces. They also said promises of job creation for the youth that Lungu made have yet to be met.

The critics cited what they called the high rate of unemployment among young people as proof the government hasn’t delivered. Opponents of Lungu also accused him of inciting ethnic tensions and violence, accusations Bwalya rejects.

Lungu faces a stiff challenge from Hakainde Hichilema of the main opposition, the United Party for National Development, as well as Nevers Mumba, of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy.