Malawi’s Supreme Court will decide today (Monday) whether former President Bakili Muluzi is eligible to stand as the presidential candidate for the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF). This comes after a group of political activists filed a suit at the Supreme Court seeking a clarification on whether Section 83 of the Constitution allows Muluzi, who served the maximum two consecutive terms as president, to stand in the 2009 election. Muluzi supporters contend the constitution is silent on whether a former president could stand at a later date despite having served two full terms in office.
Meanwhile, Muluzi has reportedly, assembled 24 local and international lawyers to establish the possibility of laws of Malawi barring him from joining the presidential race again. Ben Phiri is the leader of the political activists. From the capital Lilongwe, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that his group wants to prevent a constitutional crisis in the future.
“Basically, what we are saying is we re not doing anybody’s favor, but to the favor of Malawians. In conflict management you look at things from a distance, and what we are saying is this former president has got his own following, and people who love him. And he has already started campaigning, spending money and all sorts’ of things. And if it happens that he cannot stand, now it will serve even his own political party to work out on some of the hook and sand. And it will work out as well for the better so that at least they would know the way forward,” Phiri noted.
He said ordinary Malawians stand a chance of losing out if the country does not know whether the former president is eligible to stand for election or not.
“If the court does not interpret it now, what it means is that at the very last minute there would be chaos in Malawi. And I’m trying to avoid any chaos that might take place at a later stage,” he said.
Phiri denies doing the dirty work for President Bingu Wa Mutharika to win the next election, as speculated by his critics.
“On that one, you know lots of people have chicken vision, where they look at where they are eating there and there. They do not have the love of the nation. That is why Africa is having problems at this point in time. This people, what they are saying is that we should wait three months before the election, s what we are saying is, are we solving a problem or we are creating a problem? Because if we have chaos, we might end up not having elections at all, and we are saying we better do it now rather than later,” Phiri pointed out.
He said the rights of Malawians could potentially be undermined if what he describes as a constitutional loophole is not addressed.
“Whether we like it or not, whether it be today or tomorrow, this question of whether the former president would have to stand again would have to be answered. We feel if such things are to happen, our rights are under threat because we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” he said.
He said the Supreme Court would have to address a section of the constitution that has become controversial as to whether the former president can stand for re-election after serving the maximum two terms in office.
“All we are expecting from the court at this point in time it that the court should just interpret the so-called section 83, which has raised lots of questions. Lots of people are actually looking forward to hearing whether the former president would stand or not,” he noted.