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Last Updated: Friday, 18 June, 2004, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Malawi president gains majority
Malawian politician Brown Mpinganjira
Brown Mpinganjira was once a close ally of former president Muluzi
A surprise deal with a bitter rival has given President Bingu wa Mutharika a majority in Malawi's parliament.

With the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) seats, the governing United Democratic Front (UDF) now has enough MPs to pass parliamentary bills.

The move follows presidential hopeful Gwanda Chakuamba's decision to drop his legal challenge to the May polls and accept a post in government.

NDA leader Brown Mpinganjira said he forgave the UDF for the past.

"NDA wants to contribute to the development of the country and we can only do that in government," he said at a signing ceremony at former President Bakili Muluzi's private residence.

Politicking over

Mr Mpinganjira, who came fourth in the presidential elections, was once the former president's right-hand man, but was expelled from the UDF in 2000 for alleged corruption.

Mr Muluzi, still the UDF's national chairman, said that the time for politicking was over.

ELECTION RESULTS
PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Bingu wa Mutharika, UDF: 35%
John Tembo, MCP: 27%
Gwanda Chakuamba, Mgwirizano: 26%
NEW PARLIAMENT
MCP: 60 seats
UDF: 49 seats
Mgwirizano: 27 seats
Independents: 38 seats
Others: 14
By-elections needed in 6 seats
Turnout: 52%
Source: Malawi Election Commission

"Malawi has had a very fragmented political situation with so many political parties and yet this country is a very poor country. We need to be working together and we must work together," he said.

With the eight MPs from Mr Mpinganjira's NDA, 25 from other opposition parties and at least 22 independent MPs, over 100 MPs now back Mr Mutharika in the 193-seat parliament.

But President Mutharika was conspicuously absent from the signing ceremony attended by key leaders of both parties.

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani says Mr Mutharika is seen by some as a lame-duck president with Mr Muluzi still in control behind the scenes.

Talk is already rife that Mr Mpinganjira is being groomed to be a UDF candidate in the 2009 presidential elections, our correspondent says.

Before leaving the UDF, Mr Mpinganjira had been tipped to take over from Mr Muluzi.



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