Zambia’s succession battle at full throttle ahead of 2016 elections
Sata’s death in London on Tuesday may have lifted the lid on a succession struggle in that country but it remains unclear if his party will stay united ahead of the next election.
The southern African country has a constitutional provision stipulating that upon the death of a serving president, an election must be held in 90 days.
Vice-president Guy Scott was appointed as interim president until the next elections after cabinet deliberations on Wednesday morning.
Sata’s death came shortly after a succession battle saw two names emerge as his Patriotic Front party presidential frontrunners for the next elections.
The ruling Patriotic Front was split into two factions with one group led by Finance minister Alexander Chikwanda on the one hand and Scott as well as Justice minister Wynter Kabimba on the other.
Scott would not qualify to contest for the presidency because of his Scottish parentage and is likely to back Kabimba. A constitutional clause states that a president should be of Zambian parentage.
Although analysts suggest the protagonists might be in a precarious situation as Sata’s death risks exposing an undisciplined party, Scott’s current position could empower Kabimba, despite the latter not being from the majority Bemba ethnic group.
Chikwanda’s faction in the party is mostly Bemba.
Despite acting as president in the absence of Sata, Chikwanda was side-stepped and Defense minister, Edgar Lungu was appointed acting president before Sata left for London.
Both Edgar Lungu, who stepped aside for Scott as acting president, and Chikwanda, are likely to contend for the ruling party’s ticket.
Sata, who took office in September 2011, had been unwell for several months.
A mid-September appearance at a parliamentary session where he announced that he was “not dead” did little to mitigate the succession fervour in his own party.
The parliamentary address saw the president making his first public appearance after disappearing in mid-June.
Sata failed to attend a crucial US-Africa summit in early August this year and was also absent from the annual Southern African Development Community summit held during the same month in Zimbabwe.
Sata became the second Zambian president to die in office after Levy Mwanawasa who died in 2008.
The Zambian leader also became the 11th African president to die in office since 2008.