February 23, 2004

Tensions ahead of elections

Reports that police had fired shots during an opposition rally have raised some fears that Malawi's upcoming May elections could be accompanied by violence. According to reports two people were wounded when riot police fired live rounds at a crowd to stop a rally by opposition parties in the southern city of Blantyre. Kholiwe Mkandawire of the "Mgwirizano"- coalition, an alliance of six small parties, said that scores of heavily armed riot police "resorted to firing live bullets" at the crowd of 5.000, which had refused to disperse from a public park in the township of Mjamba. The opposition parties had reportedly obtained a court order allowing the rally, despite the ruling party mayor of Blantyre earlier banning the event.

The ruling United Democratic Front is set to face off against opposition parties in May presidential and legislative elections. The elections will be hotly contested, as President Bakili Muluzi is retiring after failed attempts to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a third term. (IRIN)

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