Zambians are going to the polls to elect a new president to replace Levy Mwanawasa, who died in August after suffering a stroke. The two main contenders in the poll are acting president Rupiah Banda and opposition leader Michael Sata. Police are on high alert for what is expected to be a close vote.
The country’s army commander, Gen Isaac Chisuzi, warned that anyone who tried to incite violence would be dealt with by the army.
In their final rallies on Wednesday, both candidates named economic progress as their top goal.
Mr Banda, a 71-year-old former diplomat who served as vice-president to Mr Mwanawasa, heads the governing Movement For Multi-Party Democracy. He promised to follow in the footsteps of the former leader.
Mr Sata, who leads the opposition Patriotic Front, called on his supporters to sleep outside polling booths to prevent vote rigging. He has vowed to transform Zambia within 90 days of taking office by forcing foreign firms to hand over 25% stakes to local investors.
There are two other candidates: Hakainde Hichilema, of the United Party for National Development and retired army general Godfrey Miyande, of the Heritage Party.
The winner of the election will serve until 2011 – when Mr Mwanawasa’s term would have ended.