Page last updated at 23:21 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 00:21 UK

Zambian election date announced

Levy Mwanawasa (2007)
Levy Mwanawasa had been in poor health for several years

Zambia will hold an election on 30 October to choose a successor to President Levy Mwanawasa, who died in a French military hospital last month.

The poll was announced by the acting President, Rupiah Banda, who will be the candidate of the governing Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD).

He is likely to face a strong challenge from opposition leader Michael Sata, who narrowly lost the election in 2006.

Mr Mwanawasa, who had led Zambia since 2001, suffered a stroke in June.

Under the constitution, an election must be called within 90 days of the post of president becoming vacant.

Appeal for calm

In a televised speech, Mr Banda said that the conclusion of the official mourning period for Mr Mwanawasa meant the government could now announce the date of the upcoming presidential election.

"Upon the death of our late president, the government immediately began preparations to meet this constitutional requirement and therefore the electoral commission has commenced preparation to hold elections," he said.

"I appeal to the people of Zambia to remain calm, peaceful, and united during this pre-election period and to conduct campaigns in a clean and dignified manner. I hope campaigning will be based on issues," he added.

Mr Banda, vice-president under Mr Mwanawasa, was selected last week by the MMD as its candidate for the presidency.

Correspondents say the 72-year-old's chances have been boosted by a decision by smaller parties to support his candidacy rather than to contest the election.

However, he is expected to be face strong opposition from Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front, and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development. Both men stood in the 2006 election.

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