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Malawi’s President Threatens Opposition

The political tension between Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika and the opposition is reportedly getting worse with no end in sight. This comes after President Mutharika threatened to suspend parliament and call for early elections if the opposition continues to refuse to pass the budget. But the opposition says President Mutharika’s remarks are irrelevant and misplaced and that they would not be intimidated.

Justin Dzonzi is the chairman of Malawi Human Rights Consultative Committee (MHRCC). From the commercial capital, Blantyre he tells VOA English to Africa Service reporter Peter Clottey that President Mutharika does not have the constitutional mandate to run his government without a budget approved by parliament.

“Our basic reaction, that’s from the point of the constitutional set up of the government, we are essentially saying that there is an order in which certain things are supposed to be done. So as regard to the issue of the budget, whether or not a head of state, whether in Malawi, or indeed under our circumstances whether Dr. Mutharika can this country without an authorized budget. Then our essential reaction was that the issues of budget or expenditures from consolidated funds are stipulated and provided for in our republican constitution,” Dzonzi noted.

He cited a constitutional provision, which he said invalidates President Mutharika’s claim that he could run the country without an approved budget

“When you are looking at sections 171 and I think to about 180, as they have very detailed provisions in terms of what happens. And our basic position is that there is no way the president can do that because the constitution gives the powers to the national assembly to authorize any expenditure from the consolidated fund,” he said.

Dzonzi said there are provisions in the constitution to address potential problems for example in the event the budget was not passed during the fiscal year.

“What the constitution says is that where for any reason it is not possible for the budget to be at the end of the financial year, then the national assembly can authorize the minister of finance to spend out of the consolidated fund for a period of not more than four months. Beyond that, I think there is a presumption that there must be a valid budget which has been authorized by parliament,” Dzonzi pointed out.

He said both President Mutharika and the opposition could resolve the brewing political standoff.

“Obviously, there is if you listen to the story from the executive side, their major concern, is they think that once the speaker of parliament makes his determination on sections 65. As soon as the numerical advantage for the opposition MP’s (Members of parliament) increases to the extent that they can achieve a two-thirds majority, there is a general belief that the opposition wants to move a motion for the impeachment for the president,” he said.

Dzonzi said some concerned Malawians are asking for compromise from both sides to end the political impasse between the president and the opposition.

“The message which we’ve been passing across to the opposition is for the opposition to assure this country that no impeachment proceedings would commence immediately or indeed at any point following the ruling on section 65. Now, the opposition too has this fear that once the budget is deliberated and passed then the president would dissolve parliament. And once that happens then they don’t have an opportunity to deal with this matter, I think while parliament is sitting. And essentially we are also calling on the president to assure the opposition and indeed this country that the issue of sections 65 would be left to take its course,” Dzonzi said.