February 11, 2005

President to form new party with opposition

President Bingu wa Mutharika is negotiating with five opposition groups to form a new party after quitting the United Democratic Front to stifle a challenge from his predecessor. State House Chief of Staff Ken Zikhale Ng'oma announced that the talks were at an advanced stage. "The party will be called Democratic People's Progressive Party and we are currently finalising the negotiations with the opposition parties who pledged to work with the president," Ng'oma said. Wa Mutharika had walked out of the UDF in a struggle with his former mentor and party chairman Bakili Muluzi over a crackdown on corruption. “Over the past five or six months my party has relentlessly turned its back against me. This is because of my stand against corruption," said Mutharika. He also complained that high-ranking officials had been removed from the UDF because of their support for the government's anti-corruption campaign.

A coalition of four parties has announced it would support Wa Mutharika after he resigned from the UDF. The other opposition party pledged to support him is the Republican Party, led by Gwanda Chakuamba, who came third in last year's presidential elections. The prospective coalition would have 99 seats in Malawi's 193-seat legislature. The UDF, which has been hit by dozens of defections since Wa Mutharika walked out, would be left with just seven seats but is expected to work with the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, which has 61 seats. (Rts)

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