March 6, 2004

Over 200 aspirants to contest in parliamentary elections

Over 200 independent parliamentary candidates have submitted their papers to the independent Malawi Electoral Commission to stand in the 18 May general election after being left out by their parties during primaries. "In some constituencies there are as many as 10 independents contesting against party-sponsored candidates," Harris Potani, a senior official at the Malawi Electoral Commission explained. Most of the independents are dissidents who have broken ranks with the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) in the northern region. They accuse the President Bakili Muluzi's party of imposing candidates in that region following an electoral pact it sealed recently with the second main opposition party, Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). Even the AFORD leader Chakufwa Chihana's nephew, Yeremiah Chihana, has announced that he would stand as an independent for Mzimba North. "I am standing as an independent because people have asked me to stand regardless of the UDF/AFORD alliance," he claimed. Some religious leaders have expressed dismay, too, claiming that the region has suffered under development for a long time because it has belonged to opposition indicating that they would now like to be part of the ruling party to benefit development.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Electoral Commission has officially gazzetted the names of six presidential candidates in the 18 May elections. These include economist Bingu wa Mutharika, the joint UDF/AFORD flag-bearer, former journalist Brown Mpinganjira, who broke away from the ruling party to form the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and John Tembo of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Others include Gwanda Chakuamba who will stand for the opposition coalition of seven parties, former MCP Heatherwick Ntaba of the newly formed National Congress for Development (NCD), and the current Vice President Justin Malewezi who is standing as an independent. (Malawi Standard, Blantyre)

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