Zambia's opposition form coalition to unseat Banda

Zambia’s two main opposition political parties have merged in a bid to remove the ruling Movement for Multi Party Democracy (MMD) from power in 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections, private media reported on Friday.

The copper-rich Southern African country has been ruled by the centrist MMD of President Rupiah Banda for 17 years.

Michael Sata, the populist leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), and wealthy businessman Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), announced their coalition pact in a communique.

The parties accuse the MMD of taking advantage of differences within the opposition to entrench corruption and inefficiency.

“This is cooperation for two political parties to provide checks and balances in the MMD’s corrupt regime,” PF spokesperson Given Lubinda told the German Press Agency dpa.

The two parties have not decided on who would lead the coalition into the 2011 polls, he said.

The PF and UPND have in the past split the opposition vote, allowing the MMD to win four successive presidential elections.

Banda narrowly won the last election in October 2008, which were held after the death of former president Levy Mwanawasa.

Mwanawasa won the respect of Zambians and foreign governments for taking a tough stance on corruption. Banda has rejected opposition accusations that he is softer on graft.

The Swedish and Dutch governments recently suspended financial assistance to the Zambian health sector over allegations of widespread theft of public funds by officials in the Health Ministry.—Sapa-dpa


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