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Malawi Ex-President Muluzi to Talk with Opposition Alliance Ahead Of Election


Embattled Ex-Malawi President Bakili Muluzi is expected to begin talks with the leader of a second opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), today aimed at forming an alliance ahead of the May 19 general election. This comes after the electoral commission declared Muluzi ineligible as a presidential candidate in the upcoming vote after he served two consecutive terms as Malawi's leader from 1994 to 2004. But the former president maintains he is eligible, vowing to lead his opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in the campaign after hiring three more foreign lawyers to challenge the electoral commission ban.

Political Science Professor Blessing Chissinga at Malawi's Chancellor University College in Zomba tells reporter Peter Clottey that the latest poll shows incumbent President Bingu Wa Mutharika will win the upcoming election.

"This I think was expected, especially following the decision by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to bar President Muluzi from contesting the elections, and the decision was announced a day before he was to launch his campaign. And what he said at his campaign was to assure his supporters that the decision of MEC should not be demoralizing to them because the ruling party (Democratic People's Party) or the (DPP) is afraid of the strong possibility of the opposition unity, which will soon come up with strategies in order to make sure Mutharika loses the presidency in the May 19 general election," Chissinga pointed out.

He said the latest poll released Wednesday shows incumbent President Mutharika enjoys enormous support ahead of the general election, which sets the stage for his reelection.

"Today, I was just presenting the results of what we call the Afro barometer survey. And this is a public opinion survey, and it appears across the three regions of the country that the majority of Malawians, about 60 percent, will vote for President Mutharika and his DPP, which leaves Tembo (leader of the opposition MCP) and Muluzi with 40 percent. So there is some chance that even if they come together, it may be difficult for a combined opposition to dislodge the DPP," he said.

Chissinga said the outcome of the May 19 general election might come down to how serious all the political parties are in wooing or convincing voters to side with their party.

"It will all boil down to how these three political major heavyweights will carry out their campaign. The advantage of President Muluzi and John Tembo is that these guys are have very good oratory skills and they are able to connect very easily in simplistic terms with the ordinary man and woman in the street. But on the other hand Mutharika has serious problems and I think he has a very technocratic approach to politics and this make it difficult for him to strike a chord with the ordinary man and woman, especially during the campaign trail," Chissinga noted.

He said incumbent President Mutharika seems to have the upper hand in the upcoming election due to how well Malawians see him as managing the economy well and fulfilling his pledge to provide food security.

"The advantage that he (Mutharika) has is that he has delivered on the most important thing for Malawians, which is achieving food security. Since 2005, the country has had enough to eat and this explains probably the popularity of President Mutharika," he said.

Chissinga said the decision by the Malawi Electoral Commission to bar the former president from representing the opposition UDF in the May 19 election has not overly incurred the displeasure of most Malawians.

"So, far I think there hasn't been a public reaction, but there have been several civil society organizations who have urged the Malawi Electoral Commission to seek to amend the electoral calendar. But what is reassuring is that the High Court in the country anticipated that there would be a challenge of this nature. So what the chief justice did was to develop guidelines on how to dispose of electoral cases. And according to these guidelines, the chief justice instructed the judiciary to dispose of these cases within 14 days," Chissinga noted.

Meanwhile, former President Muluzi told his supporters during the launch of his challenge that he will still represent the UDF in the upcoming election. He adds that the various opposition parties should come together to form a united opposition party with strategies to defeat incumbent Mutharika on May 19.

In rejecting the former president's candidacy last Friday, Malawi's Electoral Commission said that allowing Muluzi to stand would mean returning to the old institution of life presidency.

Challenging his disqualification, Muluzi has hired two lawyers from the United Kingdom and one from South Africa to strengthen his legal team. Muluzi has so far reportedly hired at least 24 lawyers in his bid to overturn the decision of the electoral commission.

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