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Malawi Electoral Body to Determine Status of Ex-President Muluzi Ahead of Election

Malawians are sharply criticizing their country's Electoral Commission for what they describe as its lackadaisical attitude towards determining the eligibility of Ex-President Bakili Muluzi ahead of May 19 general election. Muluzi is constitutionally barred from running for the presidency after serving two consecutive terms as Malawi's leader from 1994 to 2004. Some Malawians say the delay in determining the former president's status could potentially plunge the country into chaos. They contend that if the decision is made too close to the election and disqualified the former president his supporters might take up arms in protest. Justice Anastasia Msosa is the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission. She tells reporter Peter Clottey that the electoral body will soon make a decision on the status of the former president.

"I would say that the preparations are going on well. We are currently working on the voter register; we have received nominations and we are in the process of just ensuring that the information and details on the aspirants are correct," Justice Msosa said.

She said the electoral body would soon decide the status of the former president.

"As a commission we haven't yet decided because we are going to make a decision at a time that would be deciding who is going to stand and who is not going to stand. It is because the process of which we are doing at the moment is laborious and as I said we are vetting the names that we have and ensuring that the details are alright. Then at the end that is where we are going to determine the status of the former president," she said.

Justice Msosa said the electoral commission recognizing the enormous pressure from ordinary Malawians to expedite the decision.

"You know, whatever the case we have to follow the laws. The exercise we are doing now is an exercise, which involves everybody. And when it comes to determining who is going to stand and who will not, we make a decision at the same time" Justice Msosa pointed out.

She said there is a cordial relationship between the electoral commission and the participating parties in the upcoming general election.

"The political parties are cooperative although I have seen that of late they have been concerned about this issue (eligibility of the former president). We are also concerned about this issue because we would like the political parties to have confidence in us," she said.

Justice Msosa said the electoral body aims to organize free and fair election this year.

"In fact that is what we are doing to ensure that the elections are fair, free and transparent and credible. We are doing all we can to ensure that we achieve that," Justice Msosa noted.

She said the electoral body has not only invited both local and international observers for the election, but also opened its doors for the participating political parties to channel their grievances.

"We have invited observers and we are open. And we have even encouraged the political parties that if they have got any issues, our doors are open and they should discuss their problems with us. So, we intend to strictly abide by the law and this is exactly what we are doing, abiding by the law. It is only because there is an anxiety because what is happening, especially this process that we are going through at the moment is a process which always takes place after people have presented their nomination papers. But it is only that the people are anxious," she said.

Malawians go to the polls May 19 in an election that observers say is expected to be hotly contested between incumbent President Bingu Wa Mutharika and former President Bakili Muluzi.