December 20, 2014 / 3:47 PM / 4 years ago

Zambia's ruling party mends rift to make Lungu its presidential candidate

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s ruling party has settled on Defence Minister Edgar Lungu as its presidential candidate, it emerged on Saturday, ending months of in-fighting that had threatened its chances at a Jan. 20 election.

After President Michael Sata died in October, his Patriotic Front (PF) was rocked by a leadership battle between Lungu and a faction led by the acting president, Guy Scott, who is himself ineligible to run.

The power struggle was seen as potentially clearing the way for an opposition candidate to win, creating political uncertainty in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.

“We are going in full force as one political party now,” Lungu told reporters after filing his nomination papers on Saturday, in the presence of Scott, showing the rift had been healed.

Scott, who was Sata’s vice president, is ineligible to run as his parents were born abroad. This week, a majority of cabinet members called on Scott to resign, accusing him of working against the interests of the party by trying to promote his own candidate, a demand he rejected.

The race for the presidency is now clearly between Lungu, a lawyer who is seen as having strong grassroots support, and economist Hakainde Hichilema who leads a loose alliance of opposition members of parliament.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by David Dolan and Robin Pomeroy

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