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30.10.2008 Zambia

Zambians go to polls to elect new leader

By GNA

Zambians began to cast votes in the country's first presidential by-election on Thursday to select a successor to late President Levy Mwanawasa, who died in August in France after a stroke.

Mwanawasa was the first Zambian president who passed away in office. According to the constitution of the southern African country, elections must be held within 90 days of the president's office becoming vacant.

A total of four candidates have thrown their hat in the ring. Three front-runners are Acting President Rupiah Banda, who was Mwanawasa's vice president, Michael Sata of the main opposition party Patriotic Front and Hakainde Hichilema, who heads the second largest opposition party in Zambia.

The other one is Godfrey Miyanda, vice president in former president Frederick Chiluba's administration.

Banda has gained landslide support in the nomination meeting of the ruling party, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy. He has reiterated the commitment to continuing with Mwanawasa's vision of national development.

The polling stations officially open at 6:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) and close at 6:00 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) on Thursday. Receiving and verification of election results are expected to take place from Oct.31 to Nov.2. Publication of results will take place from November 3 to 9.

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