In Malawi, President Bingu Wa Mutharika's administration has sharply denied he is engaged in an intimidation ploy against former President Bakili Muluzi ahead of the general election. This comes after the former leader accused the government of launching a fierce media attack on his bid to return to power after already serving two consecutive years as Malawi's president from 1994 to 2004.The government said the accusation is a publicity stunt engineered by the former leader to garner sympathy votes in the election. Malawians will go to the polls on May 19 to choose a president for the next five years between incumbent President Muthairka's ruling Democratic People's Party (DPP) and former President Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDP). Speaking with reporter Peter Clottey, former President Muluzi called for a free election, saying he would not be intimidated in the election.
"What I can say is that my party, the United Democratic Front elected me as their presidential candidate last year on April 24 which meant that naturally I was going to represent this party. But since then they (government) have been saying oh Bakili Muluzi cannot stand or because the constitution does not allow him to do so. Look, it is not correct. The constitution of the Republic of Malawi is very clear. It does allow a president who was there two consecutive terms and waits another five years can come back. It's open and it is there. So this has been going on for the last one year or so," Muluzi said.
He said partisans of the opposition United Democratic Front are not happy about incumbent President Muluzi leaving the party to form his own Democratic People's Party (DPP).
"But my supporters are very adamant that because Dr. Mutharika who was in UDF in my party betrayed us by actually ditching the party that elected him into power went and form a political party, which never even contested an election and calls is a ruling party, my supporters don't accept that," he said.
Muluzi said he would continue to fight for his and the party's rights, adding that he would not be intimidated by the incumbent and what he called the government machinery.
"Once the constitution is very clear, why should somebody outside the constitution say I can't stand? What is there is that there is some very strange fear by the current president (Mutharika) and by his supporters for me not to stand. There have been so many arrests of senior members of my party and that is not the democracy we voted for in 1994. But we are not going to be intimidated, let me repeat that again," Muluzi pointed out.
He denied speculations that his personal disagreements with incumbent President Mutharika are the main reason why he wants to win back power.
"That is not true. If Dr. Mutharika was still in the UDF the question I always asked is would I have been a candidate? The answer is no. So, it is not a personal kind of vendetta against Dr. Mutharika. It is because I wanted to make sure my party wins the next election. We won in 1994, we won in 1999, and my party won in 2004 with him (Mutharika) as a presidential candidate. So, it has nothing to do with personal matters at all. It is because we feel betrayed not only me but also all the supporters of this party," he said.
Muluzi said the incumbent president does not understand the principles and fundamentals of democracy.
"It is not democracy where a political party goes into an election through a political party and the president ditches that party that got him elected in the first place in order to form his own party and call it the ruling party. It is not acceptable, it is not," Muluzi noted.
He denied he is the only person who can win this year's election for his opposition party.
"I haven't said that. All what I'm saying is that in my party, we believe in the democratic values in this country. In my party, we went through an election and even the current vice president came to contest in that election for the presidency in the party. Naturally I won almost 95 percent. What does that tell you?" he asked.
The former president said he had recently discussed the situation with an African Union delegation made up of Mozambique's former President Joachim Chissano and Ghana's former President John Kufuor.
Muluzi, who wrested power from dictator Kamuzu Banda in 1994, reluctantly handed power to Mutharika after failing to amend the constitution to allow him stand for a third consecutive term.
Muluzi is however constitutionally barred to run for a presidential office after ruling the country for two consecutive terms in office. The Electoral Commission is expected to rule on his eligibility in the coming days ahead of the election.
Some political analysts say the former president's disqualification could potentially plunge the country into chaos fearing that his supporters might violently protest the verdict.