Supporters of Malawi’s former President, Bakili Muluzi, are calling on him to stand as a presidential candidate for the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) party in the country’s 2009 general elections. But Muluzi has already served two consecutive terms as stipulated by Malawi’s constitution. Political analysts believe the country could be plunged into legal battles if the former president decides to run again.
Sam Mpasu is the general secretary of the united Democratic Front party. He confirmed that some partisans have been calling on the former president to stand as the party’s presidential candidate in 2009.
“I can confirm that UDF as a party is divided into several geographical units. But these are officials at regional committee level who are giving press conferences or press statements to say that they and their colleagues have resolved that the former president should be the party’s presidential candidate in 2009,” he said.
Mpasu agreed that that country’s constitution bars the former president from standing as a presidential candidate since he had already served two terms in office.
“The constitution is specifically in section 83, subsection three, says that a president or a vice president will serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. There is no dispute about that because he serves a maximum of two consecutive terms, but the legal minds seem to have different interpretations of that,” Mpasu noted.
He said the constitutional court would have to give its ruling on the ambiguity of the constitutional provision which had been subjected to different interpretations.
One side is saying that the word “maximum” is operative, and he cannot run again. But another group says the operative word is consecutive that he can run as often as he wants provided the terms are not consecutive. So there is that legal uncertainty or ambiguity, which may need clarification by the constitutional court,” Mpasu said.
He agreed that Malawi might be plunged into legal battles if the former president stands as a presidential candidate of the UDF and wins the elections.
“Most probably yes because nothing really will move if someone puts a challenge in the constitutional court. But I suppose the people who are saying these are sure about their legal position,” he said.
Mpasu said supporters calling for the former president to stand for elections believe he might be the only one to beat incumbent President Bingu Wa Mutharika in the elections.
“Well, they are giving two reasons, the first reason is that he is the only one in the UDF who is strong enough to defeat President Mutharika in 2009. The second reason is that he is wealthy enough to carry out the campaign,” he said.