Page last updated at 18:31 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Final rallies before Zambian poll

Rupiah Banda
Rupiah Banda says he can move Zambia forward

The main candidates in the Zambian presidential election have held final eve-of-poll rallies, with both naming economic progress as their top goal.

Amid tight security, thousands turned out at events in the capital, Lusaka, for acting president Rupiah Banda and his opposition rival, Michael Sata.

The two men hope to succeed the late President Levy Mwanawasa, who died in August after suffering a stroke.

Zambia's police are on high alert ahead of what is expected to be a close vote.

The winner of the election will serve until 2011 - when Mr Mwanawasa's term would have ended.

Rupiah Banda, a 71-year-old former diplomat who served as vice-president to Mr Mwanawasa, heads the governing Movement For Multi-Party Democracy.

In his final campaign address he promised to stick to the late president's policy of modernising the economy, which he said would ensure continued growth in a country where more than 60% of Zambians live on less than $2 a day.

The BBC's Tony Andoh Korsah was at the rally where thousands of Mr Banda's supporters, many draped in the party's blue and white colours, sang and danced.

Michael Sata at a rally
Michael Sata promises to help Zambia's poor

Meanwhile Mr Sata, who lost the presidential election to Mr Mwanawasa in 2006, urged his supporters to sleep outside polling stations to stop vote-rigging.

Our correspondent says Mr Sata's rally attracted droves of his Patriotic Front supporters to the southern neighbourhood of the capital.

He said the party colours of green, white and blue were much in evidence and there was an air of expectancy that if Mr Sata wins, he will create jobs, lower taxes and put more money into their pockets.

Mr Sata has vowed to transform Zambia within 90 days of taking office by forcing foreign firms to hand over 25% stakes to local investors.

There are two other candidates: Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development and retired army general Godfrey Miyande, of the Heritage Party.

Turnout in 2006 was more than 70%.

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