The sole UDF presidential aspirant Bakili Muluzi, who is also the party’s National Chairman, is going to appoint his own running mate if the party’s convention schedule for December 19, 2007 passes the amendment proposal of Article 39 (b) of the party’s constitution. Malawi News has established.
Top on the agenda during the convention is the election of the UDF presidential candidate and his running mate, the party delegates are also expected to amend Article 39 (b) of the party’s constitution that empowers the delegates to appoint the presidential candidate and his or her running mate.
The said article reads in part: “Party presidential candidate and his or her running mate for the National Presidential Elections shall be elected by the national conference preceding the National Presidential Elections.
However, the amendment Article would be empowering Muluzi, the only known presidential aspirant in the party—not the delegates, to handpick his own running mate.
UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu confirmed that the said Article in the party’s constitution would be presented to the delegates for amendment.
Mpasu said the decision to amend the constitution was proposed by the National Executive Committee (Nec) saying the Nec decided to amend the clause to revert to the old system.
Mpasu said 1993 convention the UDF presidential candidate, then Bakili Muluzi, chose his running mate, Justin Malewezi, however the party amended the clause when at, 2003 convention, it abolished the position of the president in the party and left the leadership of the party in the hands of the national Chairman not the president.
“This means that the presidential candidate shall handpick his or her own running mate,” he said.
Article 39 (i) of the UDF constitution empowers the Returning Officer of the elections at the convention to declare winner any member who has not been challenged at any position.
In part the Article read: “Where the Returning Officer receives only one nomination for any office, the nominee shall be regarded as duly elected to that office and it shall not be necessary for the national conference to vote for that office.”
Mpasu said, so far nobody, apart from the party’s National Chairman Muluzi, has put up his or her name for nominations or consideration in the forth coming party’s conference for the position of the party’s presidential candidate.
Mpasu said he was surprised that the party’s Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala announced that four people would be contesting with Muluzi for the position of the presidential candidate when four others withdrew their candidature in respect of the Muluzi.
“We will seek clarification from the Secretary General regarding who else is disrespectful to the national chairman when four party gurus withdrew their candidature out of respect. That is very surprising,” he said.
Mpasu said four members, himself, Friday Jumbe, Cassim Chilumpha and Brown Mpinganiira had interest in the presidential candidacy but withdrew to give respect to the Muluzi, who had then shown interest to contest in the national presidential elections.
But UDF Deputy Secretary General Hophman Makande said the party would not know other presidential aspirants before the national executive committee of the party has vetted them.
“Names of nominees are posted in a box and they would only be known when the UDF Nec vet them names and we are waiting for the Nec to announce names,” he said.
However, according to the Article 39 (f) (i) of the party’s constitution, Muluzi would be limited to choose his running mate within the UDF fold as it forbid the selection of person outside the UDF party to the position of the presidential candidate and his running mate.
One political observer, who is an Executive Director of a human right organization Malawi Watch, Billy Banda said the proposed amendment would have an effect on the loyalty of the party members as allegiance would be shifted from the party to the individuals, who have absolute power to make appointments.
Banda said amending constitutions to suit individual needs erode the democratic principals and personalize institutions.
“Despite that if anything happens to the incumbent the possibility of somebody to rise to the position without the blessing of the electorate would be high. However the positive part of it is that it would help in solving the presidential quandaries like that have been seen in president Bingu wa Mutharika and his vice Cassim Chilumpha,” He said.
At the 2003 convention UDF delegates elected Muluzi’s anointed candidate Bingu wa Mutharika and his running mate Cassim Chilumpha who proceeded to win the 2004 national presidential elections. However the two fell out when Mutharika quit UDF and form DPP, Chilumpha remained in UDF.