wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
2006-09-25 05:22:00
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable
DE RUEHLG #0845/01 2680522
R 250522Z SEP 06
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000845 




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Malawi's formerly powerful ruling party, the United
Democratic Front (UDF), has declined significantly in both resources
and influence since President Mutharika's resignation from the party
in February 2005 and his subsequent formation of a new ruling party.
Following the split, the UDF pushed unsuccessfully for Mutharika's
impeachment, and is now focused on the next elections in 2009. The
future of the party is tied to the political success or failure of
Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).



2. (U) The UDF is the third largest party in Parliament, and the
party of former president Bakili Muluzi, who remains its National
Chairman. The party was formally registered in July 1993 after the
referendum introducing political pluralism. The UDF was in power
from 1994 to 2005; from 1994 to 2004 under President Muluzi and from
May 2004 to February 2005 under President Mutharika. Its stronghold
was Malawi's populous southern region. However, the party began to
lose political ground when Muluzi campaigned for an end to
presidential term limits and later for a third term in 2003. Public
resentment of Muluzi's attempt to hold onto power caused the loss of
many of his hand picked candidates in the 2004 parliamentary
elections. In their place a record number of independent candidates
with UDF ties but without the Muluzi blessing (or curse) were
elected to Parliament. Many of these independents then joined the
pose-Muluzi UDF, but quickly followed Mutharika to the new DPP in

2005. President Mutharika won the 2004 presidential election as the
UDF's presidential candidate with a plurality vote of 35.9 percent.
The party itself won 49 out of 193 seats in Parliament.

3. (U) After taking office, Mutharika came into conflict with much
of the party, including his predecessor Muluzi. Muluzi held onto
power in the party and attempted to use Mutharika to continue to
govern behind the scenes. Mutharika accused Muluzi and other UDF
leaders of blocking his anti-corruption campaign, and he resigned
from the UDF in February 2005. He then formed the DPP, which under
local practice automatically became the "governing" party in
parliament, despite its initially miniscule, non-elected standing in
the assembly.

4. (U) Since the split, the UDF's popular base has shrunk from the
entire southern region to only the eastern part of the southern
region. The east is mainly comprised of Muslims from the Yao ethnic
group, as Muluzi himself is a Muslim Yao from this area. This
shrinkage has largely benefited the president's DPP, and if the DPP
begins to falter, the UDF may regain some of its southern strength.

The UDF today


5. (U) The UDF reacted to Mutharika's defection by aggressively
pursuing impeachment of the President on a number of questionable
grounds. The impeachment was backed by most of the opposition
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) whose leader, John Tembo, claims to have
actually won the 2004 presidential election. However, the
impeachment move failed, as most of the public turned against it,
its procedures were challenged in court, and the opposition was
unable to amass the necessary votes in Parliament.

6. (U) Bakili Muluzi formally put the impeachment issue to rest in
early July 2006. Upon returning from six months of medical
treatment in Britain, Muluzi declared that the UDF will not pursue
impeachment of Mutharika. Instead he urged party members to prepare
for the 2009 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The future of the UDF


7. (U) The future of the party is tied to the success or failure of
President Mutharika and his DPP. Support for UDF plummeted when
Mutharika left the party. A number of UDF leaders followed
Mutharika into the DPP, the UDF came to be perceived as standing for
corruption above all else, and a number of UDF leaders were in fact
charged with corruption. A DPP victory in all six seats of a
by-election in December 2005 was another heavy blow for the UDF,
which lost three seats in its southern base. However, the DPP has
faced a number of recent challenges and for the first time looks as
if it could be vulnerable in 2009. The defection back to the UDF of
the DPP's Regional Governor for the South means that the UDF still
has a fighting chance in the entire region.

Comment: UDF as Spoilers


8. (U) The UDF should be able to challenge the DPP in the 2009
election, thanks to the charisma and political talents of former
President Muluzi. Muluzi is very popular with the UDF base, and his

LILONGWE 00000845 002.2 OF 002

departures and arrivals to the country are greeted and cheered by
thousands of supporters. Muluzi's popularity in the UDF is probably
part of the reason why Mutharika chose to leave the party, rather
than try to take it over. However, the UDF is unlikely to retake
power soon, as the reputation for corruption-- a hallmark of the ten
years of UDF rule-- still clings tightly to the party. At the
halfway mark between elections, admittedly very early to make
predictions, it appears that the best the party is likely to achieve
in the coming elections would be to prevent the DPP from gaining a
majority of the seats in parliament. Key indicators in the coming
months will be the expected by-elections to fill several seats
vacated by death or jail sentences and the projected district
assembly elections, expected in May or June 2007.

Key UDF Leaders


9. (SBU) Bakili Muluzi, UDF National Chairman -- The former
President became UDF National Chairman just before the 2004
presidential and parliamentary elections. Having failed to amend the
Malawi Constitution to remove term limits and allow for a third
term, Muluzi took up the chairmanship of the party as a way of
holding power behind the scenes. Due to a constitutional
technicality (which outlaws more than two "consecutive terms"), he
could be eligible to run for President again in 2009, if he chose to
do so.

10. (SBU) Brown J. Mpinganjira, MP, UDF National Executive Committee
Member -- A founding member of the party, Mpinganjira served as a
cabinet minister in Muluzi's administrations between 1994 and 2000.
He then broke with Muluzi over the open/third term issue and formed
his own party, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). In the 2004
Malawi presidential election, Mpinganjira finished in fourth place
in a field of five, receiving only 8.7% of the vote. Mpinganjira
later dissolved the NDA and rejoined the United Democratic Front.
Formerly Muluzi's right hand man, Mpinganjira is the strongest
contender for the UDF Presidential nomination in 2009.

11. (SBU) Friday Jumbe, MP, the UDF's Deputy Leader in Parliament --
He was Muluzi's last Minister of Finance (2002 to 2004). In May 2005
he faced corruption charges including the misappropriation of $4.2
million from the state-run agricultural company (ADMARC) where he
had served as General Manager prior to becoming Finance Minister. He
pled not guilty, and the case is yet to proceed. Jumbe is generally
believed to have accumulated his wealth corruptly, and owns Superior
Hotel in Blantyre, among other assets. It is this very wealth that
makes him a contender for the UDF's 2009 Presidential nomination.

12. (SBU) Sam Mpasu, spokesman of the UDF -- former cabinet minister
(under Muluzi), former Speaker of Parliament and former Secretary
General of the UDF. He was first elected to Parliament in 1994 but
lost his seat in the 2004 elections. While Mpasu is one of the
contenders for the party's presidential nomination, the fact that he
comes from the central region in a party dominated by southerners is
a disadvantage for him.

13. (SBU) Humphrey Mvula -- Mvula is a trusted Muluzi aide who is
rumored to have masterminded the alleged vote rigging in the May
2004 presidential election in favor of Mutharika. In August 2004 he
was arrested and charged after a probe in to the dealings of the
state-run bus company where he was chief executive. According to
investigators millions of dollars were pilfered from the bus company
through dubious purchases of spare parts. Following the arrest,
Mutharika fired Mvula. He was the first member of Muluzi's inner
circle to be arrested under the government of President Mutharika.

14. (SBU) Atupele Muluzi, MP, son of former President Bakili Muluzi.
Bright and articulate, Muluzi is a leader of the younger MPs in the
UDF, though he lacks the respect of many older UDF die-hards. After
leaving college in the UK, where he studied law, Atupele returned to
Malawi and won a parliamentary seat in 2004. He is also involved in
the running of his father's numerous businesses. Despite this fact,
he has come across as independent, rational, and reform-oriented in
his dealings with mission staff. As Chair of the Parliamentary Legal
Affairs Committee he pushed for the passage of the Anti Money
Laundering bill during the last meeting of Parliament.