By The Daily Times - 25 April 2008 - 10:42:10
We congratulate United Democratic Front (UDF) National Chairman Bakili
Muluzi for resoundingly winning the presidential nod for his party.
However, Muluzi and UDF should not celebrate too much now as here is
another uphill battle to surmount and that is on his eligibility to
contest in the country’s presidential polls next year, having already
served two consecutive terms as Malawi’s president.
To begin with, the convention held in Blantyre could generally be
described as free. However, it fell short of meeting the basic
requirements of a true democratic poll. It was certainly far from being
fair especially to Muluzi’s competitor, state vice president Cassim
From the word go, there were all the makings of a contest that would
lack fairness to Chilumpha as Muluzi, the party’s sole financier, had
The incumbent UDF leader had far more advantage ahead of his contender
prior and during the convention and under such circumstances, there was
very little to do for Chilumpha, whose own supporters were victimised
for supporting the bold decision he took to challenge Muluzi.
Chilumpha’s potential voters like the UDF Governor for Ntcheu was long
removed from his post for supporting Chilumpha while several dozens of
supporters felt out of place at the indaba.
Even the set-up inside the convention hall was set to frustrate him out of the contest.
First, there were posters of Muluzi all over the place.
Chilumpha was denied a chance to speak whilst his rival Muluzi spoke
for hours on end, both as a sitting chairman of the party and as a
contender for the post of presidential candidate.
The songs, the campaign material and all the protocol was all designed
for Muluzi and there was no way Chilumpha could stand a fair chance to
Such a convention cannot be said to have been fair and democratic even
if voting and the general conduct of the polls went on smoothly.
In any democracy, the tenet is that all candidates need to be given
equitable opportunity to campaign for them to market their manifesto to
the electorate. But this was not the case for Chilumpha.
Certainly, the UDF missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate to all
political parties in Malawi that it is possible within political
parties to compete for positions fairly and democratically without
showing each other bad blood.
As for Muluzi’s eligibility for 2009 polls, the UDF has won the first
round of the battle for electing him presidential candidate, but the
biggest jigsaw puzzle that remains is whether he is eligible to stand
for the presidency of the country.
So far, the opinion has been split on whether the constitution allows him to stand or not.
But overall, prominent legal pundits including the Malawi Law
Commission have said the law bars him from the standing. But Muluzi and
his supporters contend that he is eligible to stand beyond two
consecutive terms. Ultimately, the courts will have to clarify this
matter sooner or later, but so far nobody has moved the courts to do
so, leaving Muluzi’s fate undecided.
In the meantime, he remains the presidential candidate for the UDF until otherwise declared.
All in all, the UDF should be commended for setting the pace in holding
violent-free polls ahead of the general elections next year. However,
the party could have done better by ensuring a fair game between the
two rivals, Chilumpha and Muluzi.