UDF MP and Minister of Economic Planning and Development, Atupele Muluzi, has said that it is his party which will decide on his stay in President Joyce Banda's government of national unity, or any electoral pact for 2014.
Atupele, who caused quite a stir last year when he launched his 'New Agenda For Change' as a platform for his candidature for the 2014 presidential election, has said that he will be guided by a consensus of the UDF on any working relationship with other parties going forward.
Since his appointment to cabinet in April, the young Muluzi has abandoned his well-oiled campaign tours to sell himself to the masses, amidst simmering political differences in the UDF that resulted into the formation of two camps.
One faction was led by George Nga Mtafu, to which Atupele belonged, and the other one led by Friday Jumbe, which opposed the short-cut used by the Mtafu camp to promote Atupele as the torch-bearer without being endorsed by a convention.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Atupele said: "Despite being a cabinet member I am also a UDF member but I am not the UDF leader. I am just an ordinary member. That decision (on 2014) will have to be made through a consensus in the UDF.
"Politics is a service. It is about serving people," Atupele said, insisting that the possibility of extension of the governing partnership into an electoral working relationship rests with the leadership of the two parties.
While Atupele said he remains a UDF member whose party has interest to contest in 2014, he declined to categorically state if he himself would contest for presidency in 2014.
"Her Excellency the President asked me to serve her government which is not only a great honour but also an opportunity for us all to reshape and forge a new direction for the country. My focus is on helping the president achieve her vision of a quick economic recovery.
"We have to overcome the enormous challenges of the recent past," Atupele said. "I am into politics to serve. I have been given an opportunity to serve. This is an opportunity to set aside our political interests."
However, senior UDF member and former Speaker of Parliament, Sam Mpasu, has said that the current working relationship between President Banda's People's Party and some UDF parliamentarians should not be taken to mean that PP had a solid relationship with the UDF. He said the current arrangement is based on individual capacity.
"The idea of the 15-party coalition (to which the Jumbe faction of the UDF belonged) was overtaken by events but as for whether the party will partner with PP or not, I wouldn't be able to tell because that is for the future," Mpasu said.
He said, in his view, some of the UDF MPs appointed in government have "in fact" already joined the PP and were only pretending to be UDF members because of a fear for the unknown.
"The MPs are very discouraged by events in the UDF. Some have announced their departure, so I am not sure of their future with government," Mpasu said.
But Atupele, who is MP for Machinga North East said by incorporating members of other parties and never demanding that they join the ruling PP, President Banda has "displayed inter-party tolerance."
The UDF and PP are technically in a coalition government after the president appointed members of the party into her cabinet.
The two parties also share membership of the 15-party coalition which prior to the exiting of the DPP from government was working to form a possible electoral partnership.
Although his critics slammed him for being inexperienced, Muluzi, 36, took advantage of the split in the UDF to launch his own blazing campaign last year but was cut short following the death of former President Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 and his own appointment as cabinet minister.