President Peter Mutharika on Saturday gave his detractors food for thought when he suggested that he was far from retiring from politics, which means he is on course to contesting on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2019 elections.
In by-elections held in three constituencies and three wards recently, Mutharika’s DPP got one ward, meaning that the party’s showing in recent elections was below par.
Mutharika is 79 years old and will be 81 at polling time in 2019, an age 80 percent of Malawians do not fancy, according to a recent Afrobarometer report which said presidential candidates should not be more than 70 years old.
The President was speaking at Katoto roundabout in Mzuzu on arrival to the Northern Region where he is set to perform a number of official assignments.
“These days, people want to be youthful. Some people, who are 50, 60 and 70, call themselves, youths. So I am also a youth. Remember I am a European Union Champion for the youth; so, I am a youth,” said Mutharika while attracting applause from DPP Cadets.
At 81 in 2019, Mutharika is constitutionally eligible to contest in the elections.
The DPP lost three Parliamentary seats of Nsanje Lalanje, Lilongwe Msozi North and Lilongwe City South East to opposition Malawi Congress Party in recent by-elections.
Reacting to Mutharika’s comments, Chancellor College political analyst, Joseph Chunga, said the President’s statement was aimed at telling Malawians that he is still strong and around in Malawi politics.
Chunga added that Mutharika might also be responding to the recent Afrobarometer report, which indicates that 80 percent of Malawians do not want presidential candidates who are 70 years old and above.
“People get retirement at 60 but, for politicians, we still see [some] reluctance to abide by the age limit. Therefore, his [the President’s] sentiments may be testing the waters to see if people think he is still relevant in the political circles. The statement carried a message about his political dreams as the country is heading towards elections,” Chunga said.
For his first assignment in the Northern Region, Mutharika yesterday presided over this year’s national Poppy Day at Mzuzu Upper Stadium in honour of war veterans and ex- soldiers.
Also known as the Remembrance Day, the ceremony was directed by officials from the Malawi Defense Force (MDF), during which Mutharika and other top dignitaries paid homage to the country’s fallen military heroes by laying wreaths.
Some of the top officials present were Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda while leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera was represented by Mzimba Solola Parliamentarian Jacob Hara.
On November 11 every year, Malawi joins the world in remembering soldiers who were killed in the line of duty during the first and second world wars which occurred from 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1948, respectively.
However, Mutharika officially launched the poppy day in Lilongwe on November 1 2017, when he pledged support to war survivors.
Apart from the soldiers who were killed in the two world wars, soldiers who died during the Nacara Corridor Campaign, United Nations’ Peace Keeping Missions in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were also honoured.