Zambia - Government Deregisters Leading Opposition Party

Zambia was thrown into political uncertainty on Wednesday that risks stoking social tension after the government deregistered the leading opposition party, which ruled the country until last year, for not paying registration fees.
The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), which ruled Zambia for two decades until last September and now holds a third of seats in parliament, said the decision was politically motivated and it would challenge it in court.

The MMD has 53 members in the 150-seat parliament. The government's registrar of societies, Clement Andeleke, who is in charge of regulating political parties, said MMD had lost its status as a political party because it had failed to pay $75,000 in registration fees going back 20 years to when the party first took power.
"The effect of this deregistration is that the MMD has ceased to exist as a political party in Zambia," Andeleke told a media briefing on Wednesday.
The country, Africa's top copper producer, now faces a rush of by-elections for the MMD seats but it was not immediately clear when they would be held.
MMD spokeswoman Dora Siliya said the move was political.
"It is very sad that a government official in the name of the registrar of societies wants to involve himself in politics and assault democracy," Siliya said.
MMD's rule came to an end in September when populist President Michael Sata was swept to power by voters looking for change in a country that has benefited from the global commodities boom as they felt the riches from its mines had not made their way to the people or created enough jobs.
MMD's core voters, however, are the rural poor and they could react badly to the party being deregistered.
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