LUSAKA,Zambia’s defense minister Edgar Lungu on Sunday went through unopposed as leader of the country’s governing party during a party conference held in the central town of Kabwe.
Lungu, who was the preferred candidate out of nine people that had shown interest to succeed late President Michael Sata as leader of the Patriotic Front (PF) and subsequently the party’s candidate in a presidential election slated for next January, was declared winner after the other eight candidates failed to show up.
According to the party’s constitution, a party presidential candidate is supposed to get support from 200 supporters from all the country’s 10 provinces.
Returning officer Tutwa Ngulube declared Lungu as the party’s president, a move that sparked spontaneous celebrations from his supporters at the Mulungushi Rock of Authority, the venue of the conference.
Inonge Wina, the party’s chairperson has since closed the conference.
Among those that had shown interest in contesting the party’s presidency include Sata’s widow, Christine, his nephew Miles Sampa, former defense Minister Geoffrey Mwamba, commerce, trade and industry Minister Robert Sichinga, agriculture Minister Wilbur Simuusa and sports and youth Minister Chishimba Kambwili.
Others are former foreign affairs Minister Given Lubinda and Zambia’s former High Commissioner to Nigeria Selema Phangula. Sata’ s son, Mulenga, pulled out of the race last week.
Earlier, local media had reported that other candidates were trying to get a court injunction to stop the conference from going ahead due to alleged malpractices by some presidential contenders.
The general conference, which started on Saturday, was marred by confusion as it could not kick-off on time.
Lungu, 56, is a lawyer by profession and was among Sata’s inner circles as he usually acted as the country’s president each time Sata went out of the country. Sata, who died on Oct. 28 at London’ s King Edward VII had left Lungu to act as president but he later handed over power to current acting leader Guy Scott, who is also the country’s vice-president.
The presidential election will be held on Jan. 20.