March 25, 2002

Chiluba finally bows out of Zambian politics, EU Visit

Former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba has finally exited active politics after months of argument and uncertainty. Analysts suggest that Chiluba's resignation as president of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) will open the way for newly-elected president Levy Mwanawasa to consolidate control of the divided party.

Chiluba's protracted stay at the helm of the MMD has been seen by observers and analysts alike as the main reason behind growing divisions in the ruling party. Since the 27 December election the MMD appeared to have split into two camps - one loyal to Chiluba, who briefly flirted with the idea of running for an unconstitutional third term, the other aligned with Mwanawasa, Chiluba's hand-picked successor. But Chiluba's departure is, according to one analyst, overdue and not without controversy. "Chiluba's retirement package is probably the most compelling reason behind the political stalwart's decision to step down from the party presidency," exective director of the Open Society of Southern Africa, Lucy Muwoweta, told IRIN.

The constitution, which was amended in 1996, requires a former head of state to relinquish party presidency if he is to be given his retirement package. The ruling was based on one of Chiluba's own laws - that past presidents are not entitled to any state benefits if they stay involved in active politics. The legislation was specifically targeted at his predecessor Kenneth Kaunda.

Earlier this month Judge Anthony Nyangulu ordered Chiluba to stop using government-owned facilities and other benefits afforded to presidents-in-office. He had to give up his Mercedes, a number of other vehicles and the keys to a government-owned house. Also, Chiluba's resignation came amid growing calls for him to relinquish what analysts have referred to as an "unhealthy influence on Zambian politics". "Chiluba's resignation is more timely than benevolent. He has probably realised that he can no longer muster the support he enjoyed during his presidency. Also, the balance of power has shifted to Mwanawasa within and outside the ruling party," Muwoweta added.

Last week IRIN reported that Mwanawasa had received endorsement from a number of opposition parties and several influential civic society organisations which initially rejected the election results as flawed. Political observers attribute the president's growing popularity to a number of bold moves he has taken to curb corruption and alleviate widespread poverty. (IRIN)

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