Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda has said he would like his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to demonstrate that it is ready to open up the contest for the grouping’s presidency ahead of its convention in April.
Banda said this in an interview on Monday in reaction to reports that some of his party’s legislators are persuading him to challenge the party’s annointed presidential candidate and interim leader Peter Mutharika at the party’s convention to be held in Blantyre.
“My view is that such a matter cannot be decided by an individual. In the first place, the party itself must make a policy decision whether it wants to open up competition on the position of the presidential candidate or not. And more importantly, whether that competition will be on a level playing field or not.
“I am saying so because the information in the public domain is that the only name at the moment is that of our Acting President. Honourable Prof. Peter Mutharika. Therefore, the party holds the key to the participation of other competitors in the race,” Chimunthu Banda said.
He declined to comment on why the party’s supporters had opted for him to challenge Peter, the younger brother to former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, other than someone else in the party.
“Our party supporters themselves are better placed to respond to that question. It is them who know us better. All I can say is that I am not a stranger to all these people approaching me.
“I have worked together with some of them in different portfolios both in the party and the government while others have closely followed my political career since I joined mainstream politics in 1999,” Chimunthu Banda said.
He hailed his relationship with Peter, saying they are “very close” to each other and, from time to time, they do share thoughts on issues relating to strengthening the support base for DPP.
Despite Chimunthu Banda’s call to open up the contest for the party’s president, DPP convention organising committee chairperson Nicholus Dausi has stated that any member of the party is free to contest for any position.
His declaration was in reaction to reports that the party’s senior members were promoting Peter’s candidature at regional meetings ahead of the party’s convention.
Following the demise of Bingu, Peter assumed the leadership of the party in an interim capacity, ahead of former first vice president Goodall Gondwe who is now in the government of President Joyce Banda after he announced he had quit party politics.
DPP Governor for the South Noel Masangwi announced in 2009 soon after Bingu had won a second term in office that his brother Peter should take over in 2014 ahead of the Vice President Joyce Banda who was eventually kicked out of the party.
However, the emergence of Chimunthu Banda’s name in the race to the presidency has brought an interesting dimension to the party’s internal politics.