Attorneys for Malawian former President
Bakili Muluzi will today (Monday) challenge in court a decision by the Electoral Commission
declaring him ineligible to compete in the May 19 general election. The
commission late Friday barred the former president from contesting the election
saying he had already served two consecutive terms as Malawi's leader from 1994
to 2004. Observers believe the move could potentially plunge the country into a
constitutional crisis and escalate political tensions in the country. Incumbent
President Bingu Wa Mutharika has hailed the electoral commission's ruling.
Fahad Assani is the lead attorney for former President Muluzi. He tells
reporter Peter Clottey that the electoral commission is to blame for the
we have managed to have the summons signed and executed by the High Court of
Malawi. And that summons is a challenge to the Malawi Electoral Commission to
ensure that the decision that they have made barring the former president who
served two consecutive terms up to 2004 is allowed to come back in 2009," noted Assani.
said the opposition UDF has its job cut out if the court agrees with the
electoral body barring the former president from participating in any other
election after serving two consecutive terms as the country's leader.
that one is a decision that has to be made by the party because it is the party
that is challenging the decision of the Malawi Electoral Commission. Because as
you may be aware, what has happened is that the electoral commission took so
long to make a decision on the eligibility of the former president and they
(EC) are not even presenting alternatives to the more than three million voters
who we know are UDF supporters. And now that kind of decision will
disenfranchise the UDF supporters totally is not acceptable," he said.
confidence that the court will rule in the former president's favor after
considering the facts.
"We are quite confident that
the electoral commission made quite a grave legal error, which the court has to
come in and redress because our constitution has provided the condition that
would be required for one to stand as a parliamentary member or a presidential
candidate. At the same time, our constitution talks of the tenure of office, it
refers to the president who is not a former president as to what condition one
can be on that seat once elected. So, they (EC) are using the provision which
is there for somebody who has been elected, but not for the condition for one
to be elected in terms of eligibility," Assani pointed out.
He denied the former
president is to blame for a possible constitutional crisis due to his plans to
stand for another round of election after serving two consecutive terms as
Malawi's leader from 1994 to 2004.
from it, since he was elected as the UDF presidential candidate, that was April
2008, he has always said that it is the people who want him to be the touch
bearer for the party (UDF). Now this thing has been so topical throughout that
time whereby if the electoral commission was indeed acting in good faith ought
to have said, you are not eligible because you have served two consecutive
terms. They never wanted to make any
decision and even when the papers were presented on February 24 this year, the
electoral commission kept these papers until after a month and two weeks and
now to say you are not standing," he said.
Assani said the
electoral commission should have taken a cue from the ongoing controversy
surrounding the former president's eligibility after he was elected as the
presidential candidate for the opposition UDF last year.
"There is a lot of bad faith with the
electoral commission because had they said when people as well civil
organizations were calling upon them that they should inform the nation whether
a former president who had served two consecutive terms is eligible or not,
these things could not have been in existence today. But it is the electoral
commission that has created this atmosphere of uncertainty or the so-called or
perceived constitutional crisis. It is not the former president," Assani noted.
Former President Muluzi contends that the EC was
politically pressured to prevent him from representing the opposition United
Democratic Front (UDF) party in the upcoming election. He cited claims and
rhetoric by incumbent President Mutharika which that he would not be allowed to
participate in the general election, after Mutharika described his move as
But opponents of former President Muluzi's candidacy are
of the opinion that the spirit of the constitution was to bar leaders from
ruling the country for life, thus the two-term limits.
Malawi's constitution limits presidents to two terms but
silent on whether a former president can run again, which has incessantly led
to demands by some Malawians for the law to be reviewed.
Muluzi, was Malawi's leader from, 1994 to 2004 after
expressing his desire to contest as presidential candidate for his former
ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) although he already served as president
for a maximum of 10 years.
He was arrested last month and charged with stealing millions
of dollars given to Malawi by international donors during his decade as
president, ending in 2004.
Muluzi denies any wrongdoing, but despite his legal
problems, he reportedly has considerable grassroots support in some parts of