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Malawian Court Upholds Section Sixty Five


In Malawi, a constitutional court has ruled that the Speaker of Parliament could declare scores of disputed seats in the House vacant. The ruling upheld a constitutional provision that says defecting members of Parliament would automatically lose their seats. Observers believe the ruling opens the door to the possible impeachment of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mustapha Hussein is a political analyst at the University of Malawi Chancellor College. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the implication of the court’s ruling.

“I think it means a lot because the verdict will definitely change the political landscape in the sense that should that verdict be upheld, it means in essence, members of Parliament who had crossed the floor or who had been deemed to have crossed the floor will vacate their seat or their seat would be declared vacant. But let me add that the government has appealed and we are yet to hear from the Supreme Court,” he noted.

Hussein says the verdict puts a lot of power in the hands of the opposition in Parliament.

“It means that Parliament will be entirely in the hands of opposition members. And now in that event, the numbers of the government side or the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) members of Parliament would have been drastically reduced and anything in that case can happen. The opposition can come up with whatever it wants and it would be easily passed,” Hussein said.

He says the court ruling demonstrates the independence of the judiciary.

“I think that it has cemented or has given an indication that the judiciary is quite independent. We should remember it was the President himself who referred the interpretation of sections 65 to the Court. Now that the Court ruling seems to go against the President or the government, clearly it shows that our judiciary is quite independent in that respect,” Hussein said.

He says if the government fails in its attempt to have the ruling overturned, opposition members in parliament might pass a vote of no confidence in President Bingu Wa Mutharika.

“If the court ruling is upheld, definitely that is a possibility. But you never know in politics, the President might possibly talk to the opposition leaders and the opposition leaders might not want to create a commotion or chaos. But definitely if they so wish to impeach the President should the court ruling be upheld, it would be very easy for them,” he said.

Meanwhile a constitutional court in Blantyre is expected to rule today whether Vice President Cassim Chilumpha has immunity from arrest and prosecution.

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