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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia will hold a presidential election on October 30 to choose a successor to President Levy Mwanawasa who died in France last month, the country’s acting president said on Tuesday.

“Now that we have concluded the official mourning for our beloved president, I have the honour to announce to the nation the election date,” Rupiah Banda said in a televised speech.

 “The presidential election will be held on Thursday, 30th October 2008.”

Mwanawasa, 59, died in a French military hospital on August 19 after suffering a stroke in June. He had led Zambia since 2001 and was re-elected in 2006.

Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, became a rare African success story under Mwanawasa, who was praised by donor countries for prudent economic policies and a tough stance on corruption. But the country faces uncertainty as the race to replace him intensifies.

Banda, 72, will be the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy candidate, while opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata — who narrowly lost to Mwanawasa in 2006 — is expected to be his main rival.

According to Zambia’s constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of the president’s office becoming vacant.

“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,” Banda 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.”

Banda then announced a series of measures to help farmers.

The government would give farmers an extra 307 billion Zambian kwacha in assistance for pesticides, fertiliser and seeds, above the 185 billion kwacha originally budgeted for.

The subsidy would now target 200,000 farmers compared to the original 125,000 farmers, he said, adding new farmland would be opened up for local and foreign investors.

Banda also said the ministers of energy and finance would look at ways to cut fuel prices, and that new areas would be offered for oil exploration.

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