June 18, 2004

Ruling party merges with opposition group

Malawi's ruling party has merged with the small National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is seen by a senior United Democratic Front (UDF) official as new President Bingu wa Mutharika's latest attempt to cement his hold on power. Former president Bakili Muluzi said the parties would next discuss roles for members of former minister Brown Mpinganjira's NDA in the UDF.

Wa Mutharika had earlier announced a "national unity" government that included several opposition leaders after he negotiated a withdrawal of another court challenge that said the election was rigged. The UDF won only 49 seats in Malawi's 193-seat legislature, but alliances with opposition groups have boosted that to just under a working parliamentary majority of 50 percent plus one, a senior UDF official explained. Lenders have virtually shunned Malawi for the past five years because of differences with Muluzi on how to combat rampant corruption in government. (ed.)

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