Zambia looks ahead to post-Sata era | Africa | DW | 11.11.2014
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Zambia looks ahead to post-Sata era

Zambians will go to the polls early next year to elect a new president following the death of Michael Sata two weeks ago. At the funeral ceremony there were calls for a peaceful transition.

As Zambians took their leave of late president Michael Sata on Tuesday (11.11.2014), the African Union called for a stable electoral transition. Tens of thousands of Zambians and about a dozen African leaders turned out to pay their last respects to Sata who died at the age of 77 after undergoing treatment at a London hospital for an undisclosed illness.

Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front party and the opposition are now gearing up to announce their respective candidates for the presidential election slated for January 2015.

Under the Zambian constitution, acting president Guy Scott will be in charge until the election of the new president in three months time. Scott, who was born in Zambia to Scottish parents, cannot run for the presidency himself under the current constitution.

The ruling party's central committee is set to meet this Thursday to discuss the selection of its candidate.

Guy Scott shakes hands with Zambian military leaders

Guy Scott will be in charge until the January elections

Local media are naming the party 's secretary general Edgar Lungu, who is also minister of defense and acting justice minister, as a front runner. Lungu has warned that the Patriotic Front "is not for sale to the highest bidder" but will continue to pursue Sata 's vision of a better and democratic Zambia.

Another likely contender is Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda who was an uncle of the late president.

"Our values in the Patriotic Front have been passed on to us by our great leader. It is our duty to ensure that President Michael Sata's wishes for Zambia are realised," Chikwanda said, adding that "President Sata was the glue that held the party together."

Chris Akufuna, spokesperson for Zambia's Electoral Comission, confirmed that preparations for the election are under way. "We are putting together our budgets and this week we should be consulting with relevant organs in relation to the actual date of the elections," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the country's Christian churches, Catholic Bishop Telsephore Mpundu called on politicians to be selfless and serve the nation. "Let your ideas fight for you and denounce all forms of violence," he said. "We church leaders are challenging our civic and political authorities to prepare well for a free, fair and transparent election."

Widespread wish for peace

For experts and ordinary Zambians alike, a peaceful transition is seen as vital. Political analyst Emma Mwiinga says this, together with continued economic stability, is key to Zambia's further development. Zambians have seen what war has done to many countries, she told DW. "We need a continuity of peace in this nation, irrespective of whichever leader takes over."

Michael Sata giving a speech

The late President Sata "was the glue that held the ruling party together'

People on the streets of the capital Lusaka have been telling DW about their expectations of the new president. For Frederick Mwansa, the most important thing is for the next president "to come and unite the nation." Trevour Mwansa sees the elections as an opportunity for the opposition "but at the end of the day, as Zambians, what we want is peace, regardless of who wins."

The late Michael Sata led Zambia since 2011 after unsuccessfully running for president in three previous elections. He drew much of his support from the rural poor and unemployed youth in a country where about 61 percent of the population of 14 million live on less than one dollar a day.

The prospect of heightened political instability following Sata's death puts planned aid talks with the International Monetary Fund at risk, Moody's Investors Service said earlier this week. The local currency, the kwacha, has weakened 1.6 percent against the dollar since the beginning of the month.

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