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Mutharika forms new party

[Malawi] Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika.
The UN has called on the govt to put aside political differences and pass the 2005/06 budget (US Embassy in Malawi)

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika is moving ahead with the formation of a new political party, following his resignation from the United Democratic Front (UDF) earlier this month.

Mutharika's press officer, Prescot Gonani, told IRIN that the president intended calling his new party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"The president said the party is not his, but for all Malawians. But what I cannot confirm is the date when the president is going to launch the new party," Gonani said. According to local media reports, Mutharika expected to launch the DPP this week.

Mutharika's ongoing campaign against corruption had drawn criticism from within the UDF, causing a rift between the president and his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, who remains head of the UDF. Mutharika was handpicked by Muluzi to run for the presidency on the UDF ticket in general elections in May 2004.

Political analyst Nixon Khembo said Mutharika was legally entitled to form a new party, because according to the constitution and bill of rights, Mutharika "has the right to freedom of association - by forming a new party the president is not committing any crime".

Linda Dziyendammanja, a spokesperson for the Law Society of Malawi, added that "the president is free to form a party - legally there is no implication".

Mutharika's move has been welcomed by most of the smaller opposition parties.

Aleke Banda, president of both the Mgwirizano Coalition of parties and the People's Progressive Movement, said he would still work with the president. The Republican Party (RP), whose president, Gwanda Chakuamba, was appointed minister of agriculture and food security in a mini cabinet reshuffle recently, issued a press statement saying the RP would welcome the DPP and promised to work with it.

More than 20 senior members of the party have left the UDF since Mutharika resigned from the party, and UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu said those who had resigned from the party were "looking for jobs" in government.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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