- Zambia will hold presidential election on 30 October following death of President Levy Mwanawasa at a French military hospital last month, vice president Rupiah Banda announced yesterday.
"I have the honour to inform the nation that programme of conducting the presidential by-election has finally been established," Mr Banda said on national television.
Mr Banda will be candidate for ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy, while opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata who narrowly lost to Mwanawasa in 2006 is expected to be his main rival.
Mr Banda, vice-president under Mr Mwanawasa, was selected last week by MMD as candidate for presidency. Media reports have stated that Mr Banda's chances have been boosted by a decision by smaller parties to support his candidacy rather than to contest the election.
Under Zambia's constitution, an election must be called within 90 days of the presidential office becoming vacant.
Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer, became a rare African success story under late president Mwanawasa, who was praised by donor countries for prudent economic policies and a tough stance on corruption. But country faces uncertainty as the race to replace him intensifies.
"Upon death of our late president, government immediately began preparations to meet this constitutional requirement and therefore the electoral commission has commenced preparation to hold elections," Mr Banda said.
He appealed to Zambian's to remain calm, peaceful, and united during this pre-election period and to conduct campaigns in a clean and dignified manner.
Mr Banda said government would give farmers an extra 307 billion Zambian kwacha in assistance for pesticides, fertiliser and seeds, above the 185 billion kwacha originally budgeted for.
"The subsidy would now target 200,000 farmers compared to the original 125,000 farmers," he said, adding new farmland would be opened up for local and foreign investors.
Mr Banda also said ministers of energy and finance would look at ways to cut fuel prices, and that new areas would be offered for oil exploration.
Last month, Zambia's first lady, Maureen Mwanawasa stirred controversy by declaring that Finance Minister Mandu Magandi should succeed her husband not Mr Banda.
Mr Mwanawasa, who had led Zambia since 2001, suffered a stroke in June.
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