Malawi,the effort to pass the national budget for next
year has stalled. The problem is caused in part by opposition legislators. They
say before the budget is passed, they want the dismissal of members of
Parliament who have violated Section 65 of the Constitution. That section
forbids members of Parliament from changing party affiliation. So far, scores
of opposition members have joined the party of President Bingu Wa Mutharika. From Blantyre, reporter Lameck Masina has the story.
The Supreme Court says the speaker of the Parliament has the power to expel
lawmakers who change their party affiliation. So far, 60 members of the
opposition United Democratic Front and Malawi Congress Party have defected to
President Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, which has 80
members in Parliament, while the opposition has 110.
Mr. Mutharika says the opposition wants to impeach
him. He says they want to use Section 65 to dismiss the legislators who left
the opposition to join the president’s party.
That would give them the two-third majority needed to impeach the
“You will agree with me," the president told the press," that the opposition does not
want to approve the budget. Instead, they want to apply section 65 to bring
down this government. The opposition is trying to take over the government
through the back door. This can not and will not be allowed.”
The opposition dismisses the allegation and says it’s
upholding the rule of law. It has tried before to impeach the
president for abuse of power but says there’s no need to bring the government
down now. They say the voters can do that in next year’s presidential and
parliamentary elections, which they are confident of winning.
During last year’s budget meetings, MPs spent more
than four months wrangling over which issue to deal with first – the renegade
legislators or the budget. They agreed to begin with the budget, but after it
was passed, the president ended the meetings. This time around, the opposition
parties say they will not be fooled again.
Bakili Muluzi is the Malawi’s former president and
leader of the opposition UDF.
“As chairman of this partyand as presidential candidate
of this party, UDF,," he said, "I am saying: No Section 65, no budget.”
In late June, President Mutharika suspended the
Parliament in an effort, he says, to bring sanity to the body. The suspension
led to mediation efforts by the clergy aimed at finding a solution to the
But the opposition and ruling party have not signed
the memorandum of understanding (MOU) issued by the mediators, which contains
possible solutions to the problem.
The mediators are led by Roman Catholic Archbishop
Tarcizious Ziyaye. They propose that both issues be discussed at the same time.
The mediators also suggest that the government help lift a court injunction
obtained by some MPs to prevent the speaker from sacking the 60 legislators.
The president is not expected to accept that proposal because lifting the court
injunction would make it possible for the opposition to impeach the president.
The opposition has agreed to sign the memorandum of
understanding. But President Mutharika has refused to link the latest budget
talks to the section of the Constitution that forbids MPs to change parties. He
is proposing a referendum to let the voters decide which issue should be
decided first. But the opposition say that’s a waste of money.
He told the press, “I will not accept equating section 65 to the budget
because the session that has been adjourned is a budget session, for goodness’
sake. It’s not a session for anything else and there we in the government will
not accept discussing anything expect the budget.”
warn a delay could harm many government programs. They say the government would
not have the money to buy fertilizers, seeds, or other inputs to distribute to
farmers – an effort that’s helped feed the country for the past two years.
the head of the United Nations mission in Malawi, Michael Keating, says the
impasse could lead to a loss of donor aid for Malawi.
President Mutharika has said that if the MPs don’t take
action, he will continue governing without the budget until the general
elections next year.
The country has been using a smaller emergency budget since
the end of the financial year on June 30.