The BBC's Musonda Chibamba profiles the four Zambian presidential candidates standing in Thursday's polls and hoping to succeed the late President Levy Mwanawasa who died in August after suffering a stroke.
Click on the links below to read the profiles:
RUPIAH BANDA - MOVEMENT FOR MULTI-PARTY DEMOCRACY
Rupiah Banda is something of an outsider in the ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) but still managed to secure its nomination, after being acting president since Mr Mwanawasa died in August.
He had all but retired from active politics and settled at his farm in his native town of Chipata when he was surprisingly recruited by Mr Mwanawasa during the 2006 presidential campaign to help shore up the MMD's dwindling support in the Eastern Province.
By the time the election had passed, Mr Banda had delivered the province to the ruling party.
Mr Mwanawasa appointed him vice-president in appreciation, and thereby set him on a political path that now sees him on the verge of becoming the country's fourth president, should he win the 30 October presidential polls.
The 71-year-old Mr Banda was previously known as a die-hard supporter of the opposition United National Independence Party (Unip) that was ousted from power in 1991 after 27 years in power with Kenneth Kaunda at the helm.
Mr Banda was one of the first appointees in the Kaunda government soon after the country's independence from Britain, serving as a diplomat in Egypt and other countries as well as several other political portfolios including that of Foreign Affairs Minister, spanning more than two decades.
An economist by profession, Mr Banda has also been involved in running companies in the private sector and is an ardent lover of sports, having served in associations of several sports disciplines.
His friendly disposition draws many to him.
But questions have been asked about his record, with allegations of corruption and mismanagement frequently surfacing concerning public offices he has held.
But he told the BBC's Network Africa programme the allegations were baseless.
"I am not corrupt," he said.
He said he was the best candidate for the job, with the most experience.
Rupiah Banda has led Zambia since Levy Mwanawasa died
"I read a lot and I have seen how countries move from poverty to wealth by very smart ways."
His recruitment to the MMD was the subject of controversy as he is still perceived by many to have ties to Unip.
He has been caretaker president since Mr Mwanawasa suffered a stroke in June.
In that time, he has managed to manoeuvre himself to become the MMD's presidential candidate, despite opposition from longer-standing party members.
Although Mr Banda has had access to state resources, as allowed by the law, in his campaign for the presidency, opinion polls have consistently placed him in second position.
Mr Banda is married, with eight children
MICHAEL CHILUFYA SATA - PATRIOTIC FRONT
An almost fatal illness earlier this year set in motion a chain of events that has seen a visible change to the politics previously practiced by Zambia's opposition strongman Michael Sata.
After suffering what was thought to be a heart attack, Mr Sata's political nemesis Levy Mwanawasa pulled several presidential strings that saw his gravely-ill rival airlifted to South Africa for specialist treatment at government cost in a matter of hours.
Mr Sata shocked the nation on his return from South Africa when he made his first trip to State House in seven years, to personally thank Mr Mwanawasa for saving his life, resulting in an hour-and-a-half long meeting that saw the two bitter political rivals bury the hatchet and hug in public.
With the death of Mr Mwanawasa a few months later, Mr Sata appears to have kept his word by toning down his previous confrontational politics.
From the previous brutish personality many Zambians were familiar with, Mr Sata now appears to be a more sober politician, even dropping his previous chain-smoking habit.
Mr Sata told the BBC's Network Africa programme he was the right man to lead the country, "because I have the experience."
"The Bible says if you want to have a gardener to weed where there is wheat and weeds, if you take an inexperienced person they will pluck out the wheat and leave the weeds... But I know this country. I have worked for this country. I am not a thief. I am not corrupt like all these others."
Apart from his new style, Mr Sata has also stopped his condemnation of China's role in Zambia's economy - which angered Beijing during the 2006 campaign.
Mr Sata, 71, is no newcomer to Zambia's political scene having served in various portfolios under the governments of Kenneth Kaunda and Frederick Chiluba, before breaking out on his own in 2001, when he founded the Patriotic Front (PF).
This came after he failed to secure the support and nomination of the ruling party Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), as its presidential candidate, when outgoing President Chiluba settled instead for Mr Mwanawasa.
Michael Sata has made up with Levy Mwanawasa and his widow
Mr Sata surprised many when he entered the crowded 2001 presidential race just a few months before polling day.
Although he performed poorly in that election, he had nevertheless embarked on a path that has seen him grow the PF from a one-man show in 2001 to the formidable opposition party it has become today.
He performed far better than most expected in the disputed 2006 presidential election that many of his supporters believe he won, winning large chunks of votes in the populous urban areas of the country, where he has the strongest support.
Although Mr Sata has a humble education, and has previously worked as a sweeper and police constable, he makes up for this by the tangible results he has scored in public office, which even his harshest critics find difficult to fault.
Mr Sata is married to a medical doctor, Christine Kaseba and has eight children.
HAKAINDE HICHILEMA - UNITED PARTY FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Hakainde Hichilema was better known in business circles as one of Zambia's upcoming business tycoons, with potential to go even further in his business enterprises.
He is basing his campaign on the idea of using his business acumen for the whole country.
"What Zambia now needs is to solve the paradox of a very rich country on the one hand and extremely poor people on the other," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
Hakainde Hichilema made his money in business
He says is lack of political experience should not be a problem.
"We don't need the political experience that denies people three meals a day."
He emerged on the political scene in a somewhat controversial manner in 2006, a few months before the country's last presidential and parliamentary elections.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) was in the middle of a leadership crisis, having just lost its founding leader Anderson Mazoka, who died after an illness, four months before the polls.
The party quickly organised a convention to elect a new leader but the selection process soon disintegrated into an ethnic struggle.
A powerful clique within the party emerged and made it clear that Mr Mazoka's successor would also have to be an ethnic Tonga, as Mr Mazoka had been.
Several prominent Tonga names - among them Mr Hichilema's - were floated.
A good number of the people floated declined to take up the leadership position on offer, leaving only Mr Hichilema, who stood against a non-Tonga opponent, who was the party's vice-president.
When the results of the selection process were announced, Mr Hichilema had scored a landslide victory, to the delight of his supporters but the damage had been done.
Non-Tonga members of the party, feeling humiliated and sidelined trooped out of the party, leaving a largely Tonga party.
It was not surprising that when Mr Hichilema stood as a candidate in the 2006 presidential election, he scored an overwhelming victory in the Southern Province where the Tonga people mainly live, but trailed behind in several of the other provinces, emerging third in the overall election result.
Hakainde Hichilema ran for president in the last polls in 2006
Although Mr Hichilema has tried hard to shake off the tribal tag in the last two years, it has continued to haunt him and has seriously dented his otherwise serious bid for the presidency which he will be attempting for the second time come 30 October.
Mr Hichilema, 46, is a wealthy businessman, highly educated as an economist and has a good track record in the private sector. He has promised to bring the same sound economic management to the country if elected.
His youthful good looks and articulate speech attract the young voters in the country.
With age on his side, Mr Hichilema will continue to be a factor on the political scene for many years.
Mr Hichilema is married to former banker Mutinta, and has three children.
BRIGADIER GENERAL GODFREY MIYANDA - HERITAGE PARTY
Godfrey Miyanda, a retired high-ranking military officer, was a surprise last-minute entrant to the 2008 presidential race.
After his poor showing in the presidential election of two years ago, where he won less than 2% of the vote, few expected him to stand again.
Mr Miyanda is something of an enigma but is described by many as a man of principle and high integrity.
Although questions have been asked about how he could have served in senior positions, including that of vice-president under Frederick Chiluba, who soon after leaving office was convicted of fraud, without noticing the wrongs.
In defence, Mr Miyanda claims he spoke out "many times" but was overruled by his colleagues - an excuse most dismiss as lame.
Mr Miyanda was detained for several years under former President Kenneth Kaunda on charges of plotting to overthrow the government with several others in the early 1980s.
He however successfully defended himself against the treason charges but was dismissed from the army by then President Kaunda after his release from prison.
He eventually joined the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) just before it formed the first democratically elected government in 1991.
Mr Miyanda however parted company with the MMD after 10 years, when Mr Chiluba hatched a bid to go for an illegal third term in office.
This was strongly opposed by most of the cabinet, including Mr Miyanda, who were then expelled from the party they had helped to found.
Mr Miyanda refused to join his expelled former cabinet colleagues who formed an opposition party, opting to instead form a one-man outfit, the Heritage Party (HP), which despite being in existence for the last seven years, has continued to operate largely the same as it did when he formed it.
The fact that Mr Miyanda has no office bearers in his party other than himself has earned him the tag of a loner and has made it difficult for him to attract membership, despite public acknowledgement of his honesty and strict financial discipline.
Political analysts have questioned how Mr Miyanda hopes to form a government when his party has no representation in parliament, but he has brushed this aside, insisting that he would name members of parliament from other parties as his ministers.
Mr Miyanda is married and has six children. He is also a staunch Christian, belonging to one of the many Pentecostal churches that have sprung up in recent years in Zambia.