Country Report Zambia April 2010

Outlook for 2010-11: Domestic politics

Political tension is expected to increase throughout the forecast period ahead of the legislative and presidential elections, which are due in 2011. The president, Rupiah Banda, is struggling to hold together the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). A faction of MMD members is opposed to his leadership, and the government's performance is likely to suffer as Mr Banda spends time trying to assert his authority. An alliance between the two largest opposition parties, the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND), represents a major electoral threat to Mr Banda and the MMD. The National Constitutional Conference's approval of a presidential candidate qualification clause had led to concerns that the PF-UPND alliance's candidate-Michael Sata-may no longer be eligible to stand for president. Although Mr Sata's recent confirmation that he does have a degree has put these concerns to rest, it will not mean an end to efforts by the ruling party to attack Mr Sata's credibility in an attempt to counter his growing popularity.

It has become increasingly clear that the 2011 presidential election will be closely contested. Mr Banda's electoral prospects will continue to be buoyed by the advantages of incumbency and by the MMD's formidable electoral machinery. However, an opposition victory is looking increasingly probable-Mr Sata lost the last presidential election on a narrow margin, and his popularity has grown since then, as the electorate has become increasingly disillusioned with the government's performance. The parliamentary result is, similarly, likely to be close. This will put greater pressure on whoever is in power to be more accountable, but will also mean that passing legislation takes longer as the opposition makes itself heard. If the MMD remains in power, it is likely that unity will just about be maintained-Zambian politicians tend to be driven by career ambitions rather than ideology-although some defections are, nevertheless, likely to take place. If defeated, the MMD is likely to break apart.

The adoption of a new constitution has the potential to generate controversy. There is much support among the opposition and wider civil society for the constitution to be altered so that a presidential candidate requires 50% plus one of the votes to secure victory, involving extra rounds of voting if necessary. Such a system would remove some of the advantages of incumbency and will therefore be opposed by Mr Banda and the MMD. The decision over which voting system to adopt will go to a national referendum. Although the population is expected to vote in favour of the 50%-plus-one system, the MMD will attempt to delay the referendum until it is too late to use the new system at the 2011 presidential election.

The vital copper-mining sector is recovering from the worst of the fallout from the global economic slowdown, as international prices have bounced back strongly. This will defuse tensions that had been brought about by falling prices and job losses in late 2008 and early 2009. Stability in the Copperbelt will also be underpinned by the recent negotiation of above-inflation pay increases for workers at the Konkola, Mopani and Lumwana mines.

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