Human rights groups and civil rights organizations are saying the country needs to start debate on presidential age limits. following former First Lady Callista Mutharika’s assertion that incumbent Peter Mutharika—who is her brother in-law—is too ‘aged’ to rule the country.
Callista married former president Bingu wa Mutharika when he was advanced in age.
George Phiri from Livingstonia University said the the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) can borrow a leaf from Zimbabwe where president Robert Mugabe was ousted out of power from a party he founded.
“Mugabe became too old to rule the country that is why he was ousted from power,” said Phiri.
He said it was doubtful that at his age, Mutharika can perform his official duties effectively.
The DPP is rejecting calls for Mutharika to cede power to veep Chilima.
Civil society leader Rafiq Hajat said the DPP would perform badly if it dropped Chilima as running mate to the president.
Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthlai told Nyasa Times that the age theory should not just be easily dismissed.
“In fact, even in the event that Mutharika decides to stand whatever decision which the DPP will have to make on the runningmate shall be influenced by the age theory. Certainly, there should be some within the DPP who may feel insecure of putting either Saulos Chilima or Atupele Muluzi as running mates purely based on the fears of incapacitation of the Mutharika due to old age as this might mean the duo jumping into driving seat”.
He added: “My observation is that President Mutharika may not be in control of the choice of the runningmate and even his own candidature in 2019 as these decisions have to be made by the inner circle with the ultimate agenda of protecting and preserving their agenda.
“So Mutharika’s old age may not only be the concern of the so-called Chilima or Calista camp but also the inner circle of DPP who might now be in control of key party or government decisions. No wonder some like Ben Phiri have already started making themselves known politically by campaigning for DPP beyond. This should give you a hint of the so-called plan B in the case that Mutharika does not stand or even if he stands there has to be an already existing strategy to replace him after 2019- a strategy that is founded in advancing the nepotistic agenda.”
Malawi flagship newspaper, the Daily Times on Wednesday editorial comment said the country needs a young leader now than ever before.
“We need a vibrant young leader with a vision to lead this country to prosperity. We do not need an aging leader suffering from a crisis of confidence to lead us when everyone around us is moving towards prosperity,’’ the paper said.
However, other commentators say people should avoid age discrimination.
Presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani has said Mutharika will seek a new mandate in presidential elections set for 2019 as he is fit to run the affairs of the country.
“As far as we are concerned, the president is fit and of good sound health. He has not complained of anything such that he will contest in the forthcoming elections in 2019,” he said.
Kalilani said the comments by the former first lady were “unfortunate and the nation should not take them seriously.”
The former first lady told private television station Zodiak Broadcasting Station that President Mutharika has been surrounded by what she described as “beasts of prey” who are messing up his administration taking advantage of the president’s advanced age.
The Constitution prescribes 35 as the minimum age for a presidential candidate, But is silent on the maximum age for Presidents.
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