Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Malawi ex-leader fights poll ban

File pic of Ex-Malawian President Bakili Muluzi
Bakili Muluzi is also battling $12m corruption allegations

Malawi's former President Bakili Muluzi has mounted a legal challenge to the electoral commission's decision to bar him from running again in May's polls.

The commission said on Friday Mr Muluzi - who headed the southern African nation from 1994 to 2004 - had already had his limit of two terms.

But Mr Muluzi's lawyers say it is for the courts to rule whether he can stand again, not the electoral commission.

They argue that he can stand again, after a period out of office.

The former president says the decision is a "breach of political rights".

Fergus Lipenga, of the Malawi Electoral Commission, told the BBC News website they had received a high court summons on Monday from Mr Muluzi's legal team to explain their decision.

Malawian commentators say the constitution is not clear as to whether a citizen who has had two terms as president can, after a gap, run again.

President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika
Bingu wa Mutharika fell out with Mr Muluzi after becoming president

In an affidavit seen by AFP news agency, Mr Muluzi wrote: "I am eligible to stand as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, after a lapse of one term in office when another person occupied the office of the president."

He was succeeded by the incumbent, President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is seeking re-election.

Mr Muluzi is also battling a corruption case after he was charged in February with a number of counts of graft over the alleged theft of $12m in aid money.

In the country's first multi-party poll in 1994, Mr Muluzi defeated Kamuzu Banda, who had ruled Malawi with an iron fist for three decades.

After serving two terms, Mr Muluzi handpicked Mr Mutharika to succeed him in 2004.

But the pair fell out soon afterwards and the president formed his own party.

Mr Mutharika said his former political associates were opposed to his anti-corruption drive.

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