Blantyre, Malawi, Nov. 6 (Newstime Africa) – A splinter group of Malawi’s former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) of former president Bakili Muluzi has formed a new party. Addressing a press conference in Blantyre Tuesday former UDF interim president Friday Jumbe said the party is called Labour Party.
“I hereby officially announce the formation of the Labour Party,” said Jumbe flanked by former senior UDF officials Zililo Chibambo, Nicholas Kachingwe and Joseph Kubwalo. “The camp that has been known as the Jumbe Camp has now formed a new party, the Labour Party, so there are no UDF factions any more.”
Jumbe was anointed by Muluzi as UDF acting president soon after the former ruling party’s National Chairman retired from active politics. But soon after two factions emerged from the party, one supporting Jumbe while another Muluzi’s son, Atupele Austin.
The Jumbe camp accused Muluzi of working behind the scenes to prop up his son while the Atupele camp accused Jumbe of inaction. The UDF, under the tutelage of the Atupele camp, organised a convention which the Jumbe camp boycotted. The 34-year-old Atupele Muluzi was elected National Chairman and automatic presidential candidate for the UDF in the 2014 elections.
The young Muluzi is currently Economic Planning and Development Minister in the Joyce Banda administration. Jumbe rejected suggestions that he has formed the new party out of frustration. “We haven’t formed the new party out of frustration,” he said. “We had several options, either to cease to be politicians or to continue fighting with our friends or to form a new party and we have opted to form a new party.”
The UDF was formed by former then ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) politicians, professionals and businessmen in 1992 during the twilight of the Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the MCP’s three-decade stranglehold on power. Bakili Muluzi, a former Kamuzu Banda protégé, won the first multiparty elections in 1994 and the UDF scored an impressive 85 seats in the then 177-member Parliament. Muluzi won re-election in 1999 and the UDF improved their tally in Parliament with 93 seats in the now 193-member Parliament.
But the UDF’s luck started going south when Muluzi attempted to elongate his stay in power by asking for a third term at the expiry of his two five-year terms. The bid flopped in Parliament and Muluzi anointed a rank outsider, Bingu wa Mutharika, as UDF candidate in the 2004 elections. Mutharika narrowly won the elections but the UDF numbers in Parliament significantly dwindled to 30. But over 40 UDF supporters won as independent after being frustrated at the primaries.
Soon after the UDF took a knock when Mutharika, who died in April this year, dumped the UDF to found his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nine months after winning the election on UDF ticket. Several UDF MPs and almost all the 40 UDF-leaning independents following the president to DPP. The UDF was therefore prematurely banished to opposition benches despite winning the election. Its fate was sealed in the 2009 elections when the UDF scored a measly 16.
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