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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
No third term for Muluzi
President Bakili Muluzi
Muluzi will now stand down in 2004
The Malawian president has accepted parliament's decision that the number of presidential terms be limited to two.

Already into his second term, Mr Muluzi's supporters had been seeking constitutional changes removing the limit on the number of presidential terms.


Democracy calls for tolerance of different views

President Bakili Muluzi

The debate over the changes was heated at times and after his parliamentary defeat the president said on state radio on Thursday night that he held no grudges against those who opposed his third term.

He called for forgiveness and reconciliation and said there would be no " vengeance against the people who spoke against or made negative remarks on me".

It was a narrow defeat, with the president failing by only three votes to get the two-thirds majority he needed to change the constitution.

But it is yet another set-back for a president grappling with accusations of government incompetence over the severe food shortages and donors withholding aid because of concerns over official corruption.

Tears

The bill to change the constitution was introduced by an MP for the opposition Alliance for Democracy (Aford).

The ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) was confident that with support from the opposition, the constitutional change would be passed without problems and Mr Muluzi could stand again in the 2004 elections.

Government MPs were shocked when the bill was defeated and one minister was reduced to tears, according to the BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre.

President Muluzi tried to strike a positive note in his radio address immediately after the vote.

"Democracy calls for tolerance of different views. Now that the debate has been determined, the tension should melt away to pave the way for reconciliation," he told the Malawian nation.

Prayers

Tolerance had not been in evidence during the debate over whether or not to allow presidents to stand for more than two terms in office.

President Muluzi had passed a decree banning demonstrations relating to the third term proposals.

This led to clashes with the courts when a judge ruled the decree unconstitutional.

The debate also spilled over into the religious field, with churches condemning the proposed law allowing third terms, while Malawi's Muslim leaders backed it.

Observers say that one reason for the opposition to allowing third terms was Malawi's history of dictatorship under Hastings Banda.

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 ON THIS STORY
Malawi President Bakili Muluzi
"I am a democrat and I feel democracy must take root"
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20 May 02 | Business
27 Jun 02 | Africa
01 May 02 | Africa
14 May 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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