Zambia: Presidential candidates down to five
Excuses given by those that have developed cold feet as the polls near range from lack of finances, supporting incumbent President Levy Mwanawasa, to consolidating the opposition.
By the time the presidential nominations had closed on Monday August 14 only the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), United Democratic Alliance (a grouping of three opposition parties), Patriotic Front (PF), Heritage Party (HP) and All People’s Congress Party had filed their nomination papers.
According to the sequence designed by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) President Mwanawasa was the first to file his nominations followed by PF leader Michael Sata last Friday morning. All People’s Congress Party leader Ken Ngondwe handed in his credentials on Friday afternoon while UDA’s Hakainde Hichilema filed in his nominations on Saturday and HP leader Brigadier General (rtd) Godfrey Miyanda closed the nominations on Monday.
All candidates were required to pay 20 million Zambian Kwacha (K20m) about US$6000 as non-refundable nomination fee which some of those that pulled out of the race cited as being the deterring factor.
A representative from the New Generation Party Cosmo Mumba told the Chief Justice Ernest Sakala that the party failed to raise the money. His party leader Humphrey Siulapwa was nowhere near the court.
Another alliance, National Democratic Focus (NDF) leader Ben Mwila said he would not contest this year’s elections and instead would rally behind President Mwanawasa while he and his alliance would go ahead and contest parliamentary and local government seats.
Former vice president Nevers Mumba, president of the Reform Party, announced earlier that his party saw no wisdom in contesting the presidency, but would participate in the parliamentary and local government polls.
Last year Mumba, then commanding a large following, had wanted to challenge Mwanawasa for the MMD presidency at the party’s convention. This saw his ejection from the party before the convention and he went to establish the Reform Party.
Other parties that had earlier indicated their intention to contest but failed to make it for this year’s presidential elections include United Nationalists Party (UNP), New Congress Party (NCP) and Common Cause Democracy (CCD).
In Zambia there are over 30 registered political parties, most only active during poll time.
This year’s poll will be Zambia’s fourth since the end of United National Independence Party (UNIP) one party rule under Kenneth Kaunda in 1991.
UNIP under Kaunda was in power for 27 years before being dislodged by the Frederick Chiluba led MMD.