LUSAKA, Zambia

Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party said Thursday it supports President Edgar Lungu’s decision to deploy the army on streets nationwide ahead of general elections next week.

A spokesman of the party’s political and media committee told reporters in the capital of Lusaka that Lungu’s decision will create an enabling environment for elections.

“The absence of peace and security will not allow for any credible election and the army is operating within the Constitution,” said Amos Chanda, who is Lungu’s former media aide.

Lungu sanctioned the deployment of soldiers on Sunday after two ruling party supporters were killed in Lusaka by suspected members of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).

The move, the first since Zambia reverted to multiparty politics three decades ago, was received in some quarters as an affront to civil liberties and freedoms.

Laura Miti, Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Action, a non-governmental organization, said the move was a PF campaign gimmick to choke the opposition.

The office of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who is Lungu’s main challenger, said the president’s decision was harsh and rushed because the police have yet to fully conclude investigations.

But Andrew Ntewewe, a youth movement activist, hailed the decision because he said the country was on the brink of losing its illustrious image of sound democratic credentials.

Police have arrested four suspects in connection with the killings and charged them with murder.

Chanda said Lungu and the PF are set to continue in power amid developments such as the recent appreciation of the kwacha currency — a sign of international markets’ confidence in the status quo of governance.

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