The scramble for the Chipata Central parliamentary seat, which fell vacant after the High Court nullified the election of MMD’s Mtolo Phiri has heightened infighting among Patrotic Front (PF) members who are aiming to claim the candidacy.
The Chipata Central seat was nullified recently and a record number of PF members had shown willingness to contest the seat under the ruling party ticket.
Over the past year, Zambia has held more than 12 forced by-elections – a historically unprecedented number – due to both court challenges as well as defections by opposition members to the ruling party in exchange for deputy minister positions. Aside from a few isolated victories for the opposition, the PF has been successful in taking over the majority of these seats in by-elections, leading to fierce competition within the party to win a spot on the ticket.
In an interview from Chipata, PF Eastern Province Chairperson Mike Tembo said he was overwhelmed by the large number of people who want to contest the parliamentary seat.
“This will be very interesting. So far, we have received applications from eight people who want adoption for the Chipata Central Constituency parliamentary by-election on the Patriotic Front (PF) ticket,” he said.
Tembo said that he had information from the grassroots that the number of PF cadres interested in contesting the seat would to increase because some individuals had not yet declared their intentions.
So far, Tembo said the PF members that had lodged in their applications for adoption were the petitioner Lameck Mangani, businessman of Asian origin Hanif Adams, former provincial education officer Pilila Jere and Teleka Chirwa Others are local transporter Moses Mawere, Rose Samboko, Peter Nyirenda and for Kasenengwa member of Parliament Timothy Nyirenda.
“The number of people who have shown interest to contest the seat on the PF ticket is very big. We are going to have a problem in selecting a candidate because we have seen some people talking to people in Lusaka, while there is a system of structures that has to be followed. The decision for a candidate has to start with interviews from the district, the constituency and to the province. We shall see what happens,” he said.
Tembo said that the high number of people who had shown interest in contesting the seat was an indication that the PF was growing in popularity in eastern province.
He said the PF used to struggle to get candidates for its ticket in eastern province when it was in the opposition. Tembo said the people who had applied for adoption must not be frustrated if they would not be adopted because the party was only looking for one candidate.
“All the people who have applied must know that only one person would be picked and would have to respect the party’s decision. This is what happens during games like this and we ask those who will not be adopted to remain loyal to the party,” he said. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has set July 25, 2013 as the date for the Chipata Central parliamentary by-electoin together with Mkushi, Solwezi East and Kafulafuta on the Copperbelt.
Apart from the Chipata Central seat which went vacant because of the High Court action, the other constituencies had their MMD Members of Parliament resign to join the ruling PF, a trend that had emerged and caused a string by-elections.