Former leader guns for presidency

Former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi dominated local media headlines over the past three weeks after returning from the United Kingdom, where he went for a medical check-up. But this time it is not his health but his desire to run again as president in 2009 elections that has attracted the media’s attention. Muluzi served as president for the 10 years from 1994 to 2004.

Muluzi and his anointed successor, President Bingu wa Mutharika, have been at odds since 2004, when Mutharika declared zero tolerance on corruption and began pursuing cases against former colleagues in the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).

The two politicians have become bitter enemies, with Muluzi accusing Mutharika of fuelling tension in the country.

“I have heard people talk about reconciliation and they have even asked me if I could sit down with the president to talk — talk what? Mutharika is the cause of all these political problems we have. I campaigned for him to win the elections in 2004 under my party, the UDF. He resigned. What can we discuss?” Muluzi said this week.

Mutharika is hitting back, with accusations that Muluzi refuses to retire from politics. He claims Muluzi wants to rule the country “through the back door”.

“He wants to impeach me through the failed impeachment motion and Section 65 of the Constitution,” he said.

When Mutharika resigned from the UDF two years ago he formed his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party. Several UDF MPs followed him, and according to Section 65, the speaker can declare their seats vacant.

UDF MP Lucius Banda made a motion in Parliament last year to institute impeachment procedures that allow the sitting president and his deputy or the chief justice to be impeached if he or she has “seriously breached” the Constitution.

The impeachment procedures were unanimously adopted by opposition MPs and Parliament started the process of removing Mutharika from office. But Mutharika went to court and sought an injunction, which ruled last year that justice had not been served because the MPs had acted like prosecutor and judge at the same time. The court subsequently squashed the impeachment motion.

Since then Atupele Muluzi, an MP, chairperson of the parliamentary legal committee and son of Muluzi, has said Parliament has already drafted new impeachment procedures as required by law, but has yet to adopt them.

Meanwhile, Mutharika has warned Muluzi that he will take unspecified action against his mentor should he continue to derail his progress through impeachment.

The atmosphere between the two has been deteriorating steadily. On his return from Namibia last Sunday, where he visited former Namibian president Sam Nujoma, government officials denied Muluzi access to the very, very important persons lounge at Chileka Airport in Blantyre, and his supporters clashed with security at the airport.

Political commentators say the UDF would be divided should Muluzi stand again because there are many senior members of the party who want to run for the presidency. As a result Muluzi would be unlikely to win the elections despite endorsement from some UDF supporters.

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