Banda named ruling party candidate for Zambia polls

Zambia’s ruling party has endorsed President Rupiah Banda as its candidate in 2011 elections, as he strengthens his grip on a party that once saw him as an outsider, an official said on Monday.

Banda had faced several rivals for the candidacy of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) ahead of last year’s elections, held after the death of former president Levy Mwanawasa.

”All the MMD members who stood against Mr Banda when the MMD was selecting a candidate to lead the party into the elections last year actually supported the candidature of Mr Banda” for the next polls, party spokesperson Benny Tetamashimba said.

Banda (72) became Mwanawasa’s vice president after the late leader pulled him out of retirement to stand in elections three years ago.

He only narrowly defeated opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front in last year’s polls, leading to speculation that the MMD could look for a new candidate.

Banda had been viewed with suspicion by some MMD circles as he was a member of the former ruling United National Independence Party, which he has not publicly denounced.

But recently some of his critics have rallied around him, arguing that it is easier to sell an incumbent to the electorate. — Sapa-AFP

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