Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Malawi president not the puppet that some feared/hoped

Former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi has turned on his successor... apparently because his successor turned on him. Bingu wa Mutharika was named by Muluzi as the ruling UDF party's candidate in last year's presidential election. Like so many candidates, Mutharika ran an anti-corruption platform. But as president, Mutharika has done a shocking thing: he is actually trying to living up to those pledges. Muluzi is not at all happy at this unexpected turn of events.

"Let me apologise to the country for the choice of Bingu wa Mutharika and imposing him on the country," Mr Muluzi told a political rally. "I didn't know he would be accommodating dissenting views."

This comment is very telling about the state of internal party democracy within the UDF, a party born in opposition to the decades of one party rule by the Malawi Congress Party.

Surely, Muluzi has taken note of related events in neighboring Zambia, where a former president's hand picked successor also turned against him. There, President Levy Mwanawasa went so far as to file criminal charges of corruption against his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba. The former president is accused of defrauding the Zambian state of some $35 million.

Both Chiluba and Muluzi used an increasingly authoritarian manner to lead parties initially born in opposition to decades of single-party rule.

As a wise Guinean friend of mine often said, "Toute opposition est démocrate." All opposition parties claim to be democratic... until they become ruling parties.

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