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DPP convention still on despite treason arrests

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says it has not called off its plans to hold its national convention despite treason and other charges hanging over the heads of some of its senior officials who are likely to vie for key positions at the conference.

The convention, scheduled for 17 April and the first for the party since its establishment in 2005, was thrown into doubt last week following the arrest of some senior DPP officials including acting party president Peter Mutharika on treason charges.

But the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi has insisted the convention is on as earlier planned and the party is set to release names of those nominated for positions on Friday this week.

“The programme for the April 17 convention has not changed. We are all set. On Friday, we will release names of those who have been nominated,” said Dausi, one of the 11 arrested and charged in the aftermath of an inquiry on former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s death.

Quizzed whether the party is not taking a gamble in the event of some of the possible candidates being convicted ahead of the elections next year, Dausi refused to answer the question, citing the gag order the High Court issued on the treason matter.

He also refused to be drawn into giving some of the names that will be gunning for top positions.

“Let me not speculate. You will see the names on Friday,” insisted Dausi.

He said well-wishers had funded the convention and pledged that the party would publish the names of the donors for accountability’s sake.

A political analyst, Nandin Patel, has since commended the DPP for going ahead with the convention despite the arrests.

“The DPP’s going ahead with its scheduled convention is a positive sign in many ways.

“One, it means that the party is confident that they have done their ground work and, secondly, this is the right time to test whether the leadership is still in control of the party,” said Patel.

Peter, brother to party founder and former state president Bingu, has been among the frontrunners to lead the party in the general elections next year.

But Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda has also been proposed by some members of the party to run against Mutharika for the presidency of the party at the convention.

Chimunthu Banda told the media recently that the party needs to open up to attract more people to contest for the presidency and other positions.

But he did not commit himself into saying whether he would contest or not.

“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,” he said.

He insisted then that his relationship with Mutharika was perfect, saying they were “very close” to each other.

Chimunthu Banda visited Peter and the other leaders at the court last week as they battled

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