BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) – Malawi’s constitutional court ruled Saturday that the African nation’s first democratically elected president cannot compete in next week’s election.

The court disqualified former President Bakili Muluzi because he already had served the maximum two five-year terms allowed under the constitution.

The Malawi Electoral Commission on March 20 rejected Muluzi’s nomination papers. He appealed, saying he has been out of office for the past five years.

“A person who served two consecutive terms would have served maximum terms,” said Judge Edward Twea.

Saturday’s decision effectively ends the political career of Muluzi, who won the first multiparty elections in 1994, and led a constitutional conference that decided there should be term limits to deter life presidents.

Muluzi succeeded President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, whose 10 years in office were marred by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Malawi’s current president, Bingu wa Mutharika, is credited with modernizing the rural economy and clamping down on graft. But he faces a strong challenge in next week’s election from veteran opposition leader John Tembo.

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