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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Malawi revives third term debate
President Bakili Muluzi
Muluzi's family want him to step down
The government plans to try once more to change the constitution to allow President Bakili Muluzi to remain in office, the attorney general has said.

In July, parliament narrowly defeated a bill ending a limit on the presidential term of office.


We can't escape the fact that people still want Dr Muluzi

Attorney General
Henry Dama Phoya
The controversial proposals earlier led to political violence, strains between the government and the judiciary and caused divisions among religious leaders.

Christian leaders came out against a third term, while some Muslim groups supported it.

Mr Muluzi is a Muslim. Over 75% of Malawians are Christian.

The next presidential elections are due in 2004.

National referendum

Attorney General Henry Dama Phoya said that despite the uproar, many Malawians wanted the president to remain in office.

"We can't escape the fact that people still want Dr Muluzi," he said.

The new bill, to be introduced next month, would allow presidents three terms of office, which could be extended following a national referendum, he said.

Currently they can only serve two terms.

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in parliament. Mr Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDF) has 101 out of 193 seats.

In July, the bill failed by just three votes, despite being introduced by the opposition Aford party.

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

Dr Banda had himself declared Life President and was in office as prime minister and then president for 30 years.

Mr Muluzi defeated Mr Banda in the 1994 elections.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in Malawi says that the president has already said that, under pressure from his family and especially his children, he is going to retire after 2004.

See also:

05 Jul 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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