Zambia's ruling party in dispute over new leader

The ruling party has been embroiled in a factional feud since Michael Sata died in October.

FILE: Edgar Lungu (L) talks to foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba during a military exhibition march past on 24 October, 2014 to mark Zambia's 50th Independence celebration. Picture: AFP.

LUSAKA - A faction in Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front (PF) elected defence minister, Edgar Lungu, as the party's president on Sunday, in a disputed vote highlighting a bitter power struggle ahead of a January presidential election.

The ruling party has been embroiled in a factional feud since the party's president and Zambia's leader, Michael Sata, died in October in a London hospital.

The head of the PF's election committee, Sylvia Masebo, told Reuters that Lungu's appointment was "illegal" as the poll had been conducted before all delegates could be registered.

The eight other candidates for party leader, including Sata's wife, then snubbed the process to elect a candidate for the PF presidential ticket ahead of the country's 20 January vote.

Interim president Guy Scott, is ineligible as his parents were born outside Zambia, in Britain.

"While registration was going on Mr Lungu and his group convened an illegal meeting to do a vote," Masebo said. "We are going to hold elections in a free, fair and transparent manner tomorrow."

Questions about Zambia's stability arose when Scott fired Lungu as PF secretary-general on 3 November, without explaining why. He reinstated him a day later after Lungu's dismissal triggered street protests.