- Zambia has started process of vetting prospective candidates to fill-in shoes of the late president Levy Mwanawasa, who died in a French hospital on 19 August.
According to Zambian defence minister, George Mpombo, ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has started nominating candidates who intend to contest presidential vote on behalf of MMD.
Mr Mpombo, who is also on MMD's top decision-making body, National Executive Committee has reportedly confirmed that nominations will close tomorrow.
MMD is said to be looking forward to continue Mr Mwanawasa's legacy of entrenching tenets of democracy as well as fighting corruption.
Media reports show that party has warned executive members who have allegedly been involved in corrupt practices, to stay away from vetting process. MMD has however noted that its priority is to give late president a befitting burial.
Before Mr Mwanawasa's death last week, local media reported that some senior MMD officials and former ministers, previously accused of graft, were planning to contest the presidential elections if he died.
Senior MMD party officials reportedly said that NEC would elect a candidate on 5 September, instead of holding a national convention because there was little time to organise a convention.
"Government will ensure that people with political careers dented with corruption do not contest, because they will obviously be a liability to party. We are alive to immediate consequences of electing such people," Mr Mpombo was quoted as saying.
Mr Mwanawasa, who will be buried on 3 September, was a favourite of donor countries for tackling corruption and turning southern African nation into one of Africa's economic success stories. He had led Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer, since 2001, winning re-election in 2006.
Mr Mpombo said Mwanawasa's legacy would have to be upheld by his successor.
"We are looking for a leader with vision to re-invigorate president's policy on (sound) agriculture, to restore confidence to investors and somebody who will stand for national reconciliation. It should be somebody with a big vision on development and unity," Mr Mpombo added.
Vice President Rupiah Banda is acting as head of government until new elections are called, which under Zambia's constitution, must be within 90 days of presidential office becoming vacant.
The presidential term is five years, but next president will complete remainder of Mr Mwanawasa's term before seeking re-election for another five years in 2011.
Northern Province Minister Lameck Chibombamilimo has proposed First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa as ideal presidential candidate.
Mr Chibombamilimo reportedly said yesterday that Mrs Mwanawasa's credentials were appropriate for this period and that she could be trusted to stick to principles set by her late husband.
"We cannot doubt her capacity to discharge duties of this office as we have been witnesses to her developmental work scattered throughout country and her leadership at continental level where she has led her fellow first ladies in fight against HIV/AIDS," Mr Chibombamilimo said in a statement.
He said a cross-section of Zambians would not hesitate to rally behind Mrs Mwanawasa as a way of honoring her late husband's vision.
Meanwhile, opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) announced last Friday that it planned to participate in presidential by-election and has named Hakainde Hichilema as presidential candidate.
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