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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zambia’s Vice President Rupiah Banda and two other cabinet ministers have announced bids to succeed President Levy Mwanawasa who died last week, a ruling party official said Wednesday.

“Three from cabinet have applied so far,” said the official, adding that Banda, currently the acting president, will slug it out with Finance Minister Ngandu Magande and Health Minister Brian Chituwo.

Three other senior figures, former vice president Enock Kavindele, former works and supply minister Ludwig Sondashi and former Africa Development Bank president Wila Mung’omba have also announced their candidature.

“The closing date for application is Friday. So we may have a lot more candidates,” said the official of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), who declined to be named.

Banda, 71, is seen as a front-runner for the position as many believe he can offer stability and continuity in the southern African country.

“Yes, I am standing,” Magande told AFP when asked about his candidacy.

The National Executive Committee of the MMD will meet on September 5 to pick a candidate for the poll, the date for which is yet to be fixed.

Under the constitution, presidential elections must be held within 90 days of Mwanawasa’s death.

Mwanawasa died in a Paris hospital last week after suffering a stroke. He will be buried after a state funeral on September 3. The government said nine African heads of state have confirmed they will attend the funeral in Lusaka.

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