Lusaka - Zambia's ruling party on Friday elected the country's vice president Rupiah Banda as its candidate for an upcoming presidential vote following the death of Levy Mwanawasa.

"Now that I have been elected as a presidential candidate of the MMD, I wish to ... unite the party and the entire nation," Banda, who is acting president told supporters.

"I want to continue implementing the programs that our late president left. I'm thankful for the support."

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) earlier said it would pick a candidate from 19 aspirants by secret ballot.

Banda, the favourite to win the ballot, got 47 votes to 11 garnered by Finance Minister Ngandu Magande who has reportedly been endorsed by Mwanawasa's wife.

Two former vice presidents, Nevers Mumba and Enock Kavindele, were also in the running as well as Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha and Health Minister Brian Chituwo.

The MMD's candidate will contest an election due to be held by November.

Main opposition leader Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF), and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) are the opposition front runners in the presidential race.

Sata and Hichilema came second and third respectively behind Mwanawasa in the country's 2006 presidential poll.

Mwanawasa, 59, died last month in a Paris hospital after suffering a stroke.