Malawi?s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) will today (Thursday) choose a presidential candidate ahead of next year?s general elections at the party convention in the capital, Lilongwe. UDF partisans will choose between former President Bakili Muluzi and current Vice President Cassim Chilumpha. But while the former president possibly faces charges of graft and abuse of office, Vice President Chilumpha is also facing treason charges for allegedly planning to overthrow President Bingu Wa Mutharika?s administration.
However, both Muluzi and Chilumpha deny the charges against them. Some political analysts say the UDF should have an alternative plan in order not to be caught with their pants down if both candidates are disqualified. Mustapha Hussein is a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zomba Chancellor College. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that all seems to be set for today?s UDF convention.
?What is happening really is that indeed there is a bit of confusion. There are some allegations that there are some names that are appearing on the nominations papers of Dr. Cassim Chilumpha as well as the former President Dr. Bakili Muluzi. What is required is that the name that appears on the nomination of one candidate is not supposed to appear on the nomination papers of the other. There are some few names that appeared in both and we have heard again that there is some intimidation of some of the supporters of Dr. Cassim Chilumpha. But of course the other parties are saying these allegations are not true,? Hussein noted.
He said there was no reason to believe today?s convention would be disturbed by the reported confusion in the camp of the UDF.
?The convention, which is scheduled to take place today will take place. And nonetheless, in a free and fair sort of environment,? he said.
Hussein said the charges both the former president and current vice president are facing would not have any adverse effect on the party?s actions.
?I don?t think the charges that are leveled against both contestants would have any bearing on the convention. However, people have said that the UDF as a party must have a sort of a plan B so that should any winner be constrained to become a presidential candidate, then they should settle on the other candidate. But I think it appears people are not minding about the charges at this stage. They are focused on choosing between Dr. Cassim Chilumpha and Dr. Bakili Muluzi,? Hussein pointed out.
He said the former president is preferred to win the opposition party?s nomination as the presidential candidate ahead of next year?s general elections.
?All I can say is that probably the former president is the favorite in the sense that he has been on a campaign trail and that he has been an influential figure in the party for the past years. Through his financial muscle, he has supported the party on several occasions and that generally he is regarded as a charismatic leader. Cassim Chilumpha?s campaign has been a quiet campaign probably because of his preoccupation on the treason charges that have been leveled against him. But nonetheless, he has also done his bit because he has been supported by a few top leaders in the party. All I can say is that let?s wait on what is going to happen today. But Bakili Muluzi seems to be the favorite in the context of the factors that I have underlined,? he said.