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Zambian Opposition Party Leader Endorses Incumbent Lungu

FILE - Zambian President Edgar Lungu speaks before attendees at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 29, 2015. Fred Mutesa of Zambians for Empowerment and Development has endorsed Lungu in the August 11 presidential vote.

The leader of the opposition Zambians for Empowerment and Development has endorsed incumbent President Edgar Lungu from the ruling Patriotic Front in the August 11 presidential election.

In an interview with VOA, Fred Mutesa said Lungu was the best among all the presidential candidates, with the ability to unite the country and improve the living conditions of Zambians. He said his decision followed careful scrutiny of the candidates who will be in this year’s general poll.

“We believe President Lungu is the one who has shown the most promise and hope for our nation," Mutesa said. "He is a man with a good sense of judgment, which can be evidenced in many decisions he has taken since he got into office last year.

"For example, the choices of vice president, chief justice, central bank governor, attorney general, inspector general of police, to mention just a few, demonstrate that the president has got a good eye for competency as well as sensitivity to Zambia’s diversity, which can only add to strengthening national unity.”

Some opposition party supporters expressed disappointment at the endorsement, saying it appeared to be an effort to appease Lungu and the PF in exchange for jobs in the administration if Lungu wins. They also said media reports had shown PF supporters engaging in violence and tearing down posters of the main opposition party, the United Party for National Development, across the country.

Police bias alleged

Opposition supporters also accused police of bias, saying PF supporters had not been arrested after attacking UPND supporters. Police officials denied the accusations.

“It is to be expected that the opposition would not welcome our endorsement of the incumbent, precisely because they think it’s taking away votes from their party," Mutesa said. "I don’t think it’s surprising in that end. ...

“The president acknowledged that there are problems within his own party as far as violence is concerned. … Right now, the police are arresting both opposition party members perpetuating violence as well as members of the ruling Patriotic Front. So, in that sense the president is being fair and is being very objective.”

Mutesa said the ZED had yet to officially enter into talks with the PF with the aim of forming an alliance before the election.

Opposition groups said the ZED endorsement of the PF was unlikely to help the PF win the presidential vote because the ZED doesn’t have enough political influence and support nationwide. Mutesa disagreed.

“If we didn’t have the clout, they would not be talking about us," he said. "But because they realized that we are capable of tilting the balance, they have to say something negative about us."