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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s liberation hero, Kenneth Kaunda, has endorsed acting president Rupiah Banda ahead of an election later this month, state media reported on Sunday.

Former head of state Kaunda said Banda, and not populist chief opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF), who has been drawing huge crowds at his campaign rallies, would make a good president.

 “I am happy with the leadership skills shown by the acting president,” state radio quoted Kaunda as saying, adding he hoped Banda would continue holding the office of president.

“He (Sata) is good as governor and minister but I don’t think he can work as a president. I don’t hate him, but if voters elect him, it is their own fault,” Kaunda was quoted as saying by the state-owned Sunday Times newspaper.

Banda became acting president after the death in August of Levy Mwanawasa, praised by investors for stabilising the mineral-rich southern African nation and fighting corruption.

Analysts say Kaunda’s comments may swing a few more votes to Banda. No clear favourite has emerged ahead of the October 30 presidential poll.

State media also reported that the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s (ECZ) director of elections, Dan Kalale, said the budget for the poll would be 231 billion kwacha and that Zambia had asked donors to help finance it.

Finance Minister Ngandu Magande told Reuters last month he expected the cost of the election to widen the budget deficit beyond the projected 1.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but it would be kept below 2 percent.

© Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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