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Malawi President Mutharika Draws Criticism Over Campaign Funding


Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika is coming under intense criticism after he reportedly ordered heads of Lilongwe's diplomatic missions to contribute towards his ruling party ahead of the May19 general election. Reports in Malawi suggest that President Mutharika met heads of the diplomatic missions, urging them to solicit funding for his ruling Democratic People's Party ( DPP), and orchestrate the formation of powerful external branches for the party. Some Malawians say the president's move politicizes and undermines the fundamental impartiality of workers for the state. But the government sharply denies the media reports. Mustapha Hussein is a political science Professor at Malawi's Chancellor College in Zomba. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Malawians deserve to know who is financing Mutharika's campaigning ahead of the election.

"All we heard so far is about a meeting he (Mutharika) held with the diplomatic people. Probably he would want to mobilize some resources for campaign purposes. But the story really hasn't made the headlines yet. All we hear is about a meeting and probably seeking support," Hussein said.

He said Malawians seem to be asking important questions that the government would soon have to come out to answer.

"I think there are genuine concerns because indeed, his convoys have been very spectacular, like brand new cars. So these are raising questions as to where the money is coming from, whether it is budgeted, and actually, people are curious to know," he said.

Hussein said the president is seen as compromising the diplomats who are expected to be nonpartisan.

"Really, people are being watchful and analytical of the situation because really, if the diplomatic community gets involved in partisan politics, then it becomes a problem. The issue really is that there must be a clear distinction between garnering support for political or partisan politics. It really is a principle that needs to be looked at because we don't expect people in government positions to be using their positions for partisan gains," Hussein pointed out.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister, Joyce Banda, who is also incumbent President Mutharika's vice presidential nominee in the upcoming election, said it was up to the heads of missions to donate things or not, adding they were not party functionaries . She said what they do with their resources is their own business and nobody else's.

The general election is expected to be hotly contested between incumbent President Mutharika and former President Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi is constitutionally barred to stand in this year's election after serving two consecutive terms as Malawi's leader from 1994 to 2004. But the former president maintains that he is eligible to participate after he was unanimously voted to represent the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in this year's election.

The Malawi Electoral Commission recently barred Muluzi from running again, saying the constitution bars him from participating in the vote. But the former president is challenging the electoral commission's decision in court. A recent controversial poll shows that incumbent President Bingu Wa Mutharika would win the general election.


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