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Zambia election date set

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Zambian President Frederick Chiluba dissolved parliament on Thursday and set December 27, 2001 as the date for presidential and general elections.

Chiluba will step down at the end of his second and final five-year term after a controversial bid to extend his mandate by an unconstitutional third term failed in April.

"The date for the elections will be December 27. Parliament is dissolved with immediate effect," Chiluba said in a statement from the presidency.

Observers say the elections for president, parliament and civic posts will be Zambia's most open contest in 37 years, pitting Chiluba's hand-picked successor against the former vice-president who led a cabinet revolt against the outgoing president's bid for a third term in power.

At a glance: Zambia

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Polls show opposition leader and former vice-president Gen. Christon Tembo is running neck-and-neck with lawyer and Chiluba heir apparent Levy Mwanawasa. Former minister Godfrey Miyanda is also considered a strong candidate.

Tembo led a cabinet revolt against Chiluba's efforts to extend his rule beyond the constitutional limit of two five-year terms. Chiluba capitulated, but sacked Tembo and a dozen cabinet ministers who had refused to back him.

Tembo quickly formed the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) party, which is poised to give the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) a stiff challenge at the polls.

Chiluba, a 58-year-old former trade unionist who has been in power since he ousted founding president Kenneth Kaunda in the 1991 pluralist elections, said he was acting in line with the constitution and his government would remain in office until a new one was sworn in.


• Zambian President

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