Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi is in court to
defend himself after being challenged by a member of his own United Democratic
Front (UDF) party over his eligibility to represent the opposition ahead of
next year’s general elections.
Attorneys for the former president contend that the constitution allows
him to seek reelection. But Muluzi has served two consecutive terms as
president, and the constitution stipulates that a leader cannot run again if he
has served two consecutive five-year terms.
Some political analysts say
Muluzi’s re-election bid not only runs against the spirit of Malawi’s constitution,
but also signals a defeat for democracy. From the capital Lilongwe, President
Muluzi’s lead attorney Fahad Assani tells reporter Peter Clottey that the
constitution allows the former president to come back after handing over power
to President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
position is quite clear regarding the wording about the constitution, which
talks of a maximum of two consecutive terms, which in our view allows a former
president who has done two consecutive terms to come back after a break. And we
are actually comforted a lot, of provisions for example, in many states in the
United States of America where the issue of two consecutive terms feature very,
very highly and where governors can serve two consecutive terms, break and then
come again,” Assani noted.
denied the former president’s comeback attempt goes against the spirit of
it comes to interpreting the constitution, we look at the actual wording, and
if the wording is that it is permissive, this idea of the spirit is something
which is conjecture from the minds of the people that argue against his coming
back for whatever reason. But what we have in our constitution is that the
courts have to interpret the words as they stand in the constitution without
reading in anything else because the meaning of the section concern are so
clear that you don’t have to go and look for something near to interpret the
constitution,” he said.
also denied the former president is motivated by his personal differences and
his alleged acidic relationship with current President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
at all. One thing that you have to understand is that Dr. Muluzi has been
repeating this several times that it was never ever his intention to bounce
back into power, but (occurred) only when he was betrayed by Dr. Mutharika
leaving the party that fought for him (Mutharika), spent for him and worked so
hard for him,” Assani pointed out.
said the opposition UDF chose the former president to be its presidential
candidate because he is the strongest candidate to defeat President Mutharika
in the elections.
what is happening is that we are looking at the strengths of the candidates
that we have. And as of now, we think that Dr. Muluzi stands a much, much
better chance of defeating Dr. Mutharika at the elections because we are
dealing with a president who has very little regard about the rule of law and
also how the electoral systems function in the world. So, we would rather have
a very strong candidate to meet a president who does not understand or who does
not appreciate the rules of the game of a democracy,” he said.
described as unfortunate the comparison of former President Muluzi to the late
Malawi dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
accusation is very, very unfair. In fact, if there is any democrat in the
country, he is Dr. Muluzi himself. He is a president, even during his ten years
that he ruled this country, he allowed freedom of speech, allowed people to
criticize him, and he could always work in order to ensure there is national
consensus on issues. And he was able to bring in the provisions whenever it was
necessary. He never had any dictatorial tendencies at all,” Assani noted.