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Zambia goes to the vote

©

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-10-30

Zambia, one of Africa's most stable countries, began voting Thursday to replace the late President Levy Mwanawasa. The candidates include the pro-business Acting President Rupiah Banda.

LUSAKA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Zambians began voting to choose a
successor to the late President Levy Mwanawasa on Thursday in
one of Africa's most stable and economically successful
countries.
 

The winner faces a formidable task in matching Mwanawasa's
strong record of fiscal discipline, praised by Western donors,
and of cracking down on corruption. Mwanawasa died from a stroke
in August after leading Zambia out of an economic slump.
 

Acting President Rupiah Banda, a prominent businessman with
wide government experience, has campaigned as a steady hand who
can keep Mwanawasa's business-friendly policies going in the
world's 10th largest copper producer.
 

His main challenger Michael Sata, leader of the opposition
Patriotic Front, portrays himself as a champion of the poor.
The only published opinion poll, released by the African
market information group Steadman, showed Banda with 32 percent
support compared to 46 percent for Sata.
 

Popularly known as "King Cobra" for his political
manoeuvring, Sata was previously national secretary of Banda's
ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy.
 

Both candidates have vowed to take on huge challenges facing
Zambia, but neither is likely to transform the political
landscape in the short term, analysts say.
 

Sixty-five percent of Zambia's 12 million people live on
less than $1 a day. More than a million are HIV-positive and
about 370,000 are in need of antiretroviral therapy.
 

During a rally shown live on state television on Wednesday,
Banda said he would run an all-inclusive government that would
promote direct foreign investment in the former British colony.
 

Sata has drawn big crowds in rural areas, suggesting his
party has expanded its support beyond its traditional base among
labourers in Zambia's Copperbelt region and the capital Lusaka.
 

"You should vote for me so that you can liberate yourselves
economically," Sata told a rally to chants of "We want change".
 

The vote may also be a test of Zambia's commitment to
multi-party democracy, restored in 1990 after 18 years of
one-party rule under Kenneth Kaunda.
 

Zambia's army chief said on Wednesday violence would not be
tolerated over the election.
 

A senior intelligence official said troops would be placed
on high alert after voting closes at 1600 GMT to prevent any
violence ahead of results expected on Friday night.

Date created : 2008-10-30

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