- Title: MALAWI: Presidential hopefuls gear up for elections in May
- Date: 27th January 2009
- Summary: CHEERING CROWDS BANNER BEARING MESSAGES FOR THE RULING PARTY, THE DEMOCRATIC PROGRESSIVE PARTY (DPP) CONVENTION
- Embargoed: 11th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Malawi
- Country: Malawi
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAA7F5K40ER35FFCYR7Z5O6S0PM
- Story Text: Malawi goes to the polls on May 19 in what analysts say will be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country's history, as three of the main presidential contenders will not be eligible to run again after this election.
Incumbent Bingu wa Mutharika is running on a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket against two opposition contestants, former president Bakili Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF) and John Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Mutharika was endorsed unanimously during the DPP's Convention held in Blantyre on Saturday (January 24).
"I am indeed very happy to accept the nomination of my party, the DPP to be its presidential candidate in 2009," said Mutharika as he accepted the endorsement.
Some have criticized the DPP's choice of Mutharika as unconstitutional, saying that the incumbent president did not allow some party members to contest.
But his economic reforms have been praised by Western donors for transforming Malawi into a food producing country at a time when many African countries are facing food shortages.
Political analysts worry that the contestants might not be ready to concede defeat given that it would mark the end of their political careers.
"It is only if there is a clear winner, it is only then, that the loser will accept that they have lost. If it is marginal, then I think we will have a real battle on our hands. It may lead to instability. Maybe, there will be recount?" said Rafik Hajat, the executive director of the Institute for Policy Interaction.
Former president Muluzi will be Mutharika's toughest challenger. Muluzi won the country's first multi-party elections in 1994. He served two terms after which he named Mutharika as his successor and helped get him elected in the 2004 elections.
But the two political heavyweights fell out soon after the polls.
Mutharika left the UDF and launched the DPP party in March 2005.
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