|September 11, 2008
Election date set for October 30th
Zambia will hold an election on 30 October to choose a successor to late President Levy Mwanawasa. The poll was announced by the acting President, Rupiah Banda, who will be the candidate of the governing Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD). Under the constitution, an election must be called within 90 days of the post of president becoming vacant.
In a televised speech, 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. The opposition United Liberal Party and All People's Congress will not take part in the by-election but will instead support the ruling MMD.
In his address, Mr Banda reiterated the government's commitment to continue with the late president's vision of national development, planning and economic management. Mr Banda said the Mwanawasa administration re-introduced national development planning which re-focused on economic management and this had so far led to the country recording tremendous economic progress. The government would continue with the prudent fiscal and monetary policies for macro-economic stability which had helped the economy register growth rates averaging five per cent and six percent in the last two years. "Low inflation has also been recorded with single-digit levels attained for the first time in 30 years in 2006," he said.
Mr Banda added that the government would continue to increase exports, which, together with the debt relief, had led to a substantial build-up of foreign currency reserves which now stand at $1.4 billion.
"This position has also contributed to a stable exchange rate thereby enhancing business and economic planning," he said. He said Zambia's economic strides had been appreciated in the international financial circles to the extent that the country was now poised to have a sovereign credit rating for the first time ever. Mr Banda also directed the Ministries of Finance and National Planning and of Energy and Water Development to sit together and examine the possibilities of reducing the prices of fuel in Zambia. He said Zambia's development agenda would continue to be guided by the Fifth National Development Plan within the context of the country's Vision 2030 to become a prosperous middle income country by that year.
"Let us all in unity and fortitude preserve the peace and stability that our country has continued to enjoy since independence. Let us together make our country a prosperous nation," he said.
(Bua News, Thwane)