Malawi’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has endorsed embattled President Bingu wa Mutharika’s younger brother as the party’s possible candidate in the 2014 elections, in a move that could inflame opposition to the president.
State radio said on Monday that Peter wa Mutharika, a retired US law professor and the current education minister, would be the party’s likely candidate for the next general election.
“The National Governing Council has nominated Professor Mutharika to contest for the post of presidential candidate during the DPP’s next convention,” presidential and party spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba was quoted as saying.
Protesters this month staged unprecedented rallies against the president that left 19 dead and led to international rebuke.
New protests likely
Opposition groups have given the president a mid-August deadline to listen to their demands, promising a fresh wave of protests if he does not address the chronic poverty that has ensnared most of the southern African country’s 13 million people.
The move will likely weaken the ruling party and fuel discontent in its ranks with several MPs and officials distancing themselves from the president and resigning after the violent response to protests.
Ordinary Malawians, frustrated by a chronic lack of foreign exchange and fuel that they say belies the economy’s stellar growth statistics, want Mutharika out.
Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, has presided over six years of high-paced but aid-funded growth.
But the sheen has come off this year as he has become embroiled in a diplomatic row with Britain, Malawi’s biggest donor, over a leaked embassy cable that referred to him as “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.
The cable led to the expulsion of Britain’s ambassador to Lilongwe, and in response, Britain expelled Malawi’s representative in London and suspended aid worth $550-million over the next four years.
The freeze has left a yawning hole in the budget of a country that has relied on handouts for 40% of its revenues, and intensified a foreign currency shortage that is threatening the kwacha’s peg at 150 to the dollar.
The United States said last month it had placed on hold a $350-million aid package for Malawi after the government launched the deadly crackdown on protests. — Reuters