Zambia has postponed democracy for two years because the government cannot afford to stage local elections, arguing that the money would be better spent on roads and hospitals.
Local government polls were due to be held in November but will now take place in 2006 to coincide with the next national and presidential elections.
Sylvia Masebo, the local government minister, said: “Democracy in a country like Zambia is very expensive with polling stations and apparatus having to be set up in very remote areas. This would cost about £45 million and we cannot afford that luxury. It would be far better spent on roads and hospitals.”
The opposition United Party for National Development claimed that the government of President Levy Mwanawasa was “afraid to go to the voters”.
“They know that it is riddled with corruption and is guilty of gross mismanagement of the economy.”
Zambia, potentially one of Africa’s wealthiest nations at the time of independence from Britain in 1964, is now one of the world’s poorest.
Three quarters of its 11 million people live below the World Bank poverty level of $1 (55p) a day.