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Opposition Walks Out on Malawi President's Address

Lawmakers from the opposition MCP walk out of the parliament in protest. (L. Masina/VOA)

Opposition lawmakers in Malawi walked out of parliament Friday as President Peter Mutharika started delivering the state of the nation address.

The opposition was protesting the president and the May 21 election, which they said Mutharika won by fraud.

Opposition lawmakers, mainly from the Malawi Congress Party or MCP, kept interrupting Mutharika every time he tried to speak, disrupting parliament business for nearly 30 minutes.

This forced the speaker of parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara, to order the ringleaders out of the room.

But MCP lawmakers volunteered to all walk out in solidarity with their colleagues.

Eisenhower Mkaka, general secretary of the MCP, said, "What we did in parliament today was simply in agreement with what [MCP leader] Dr. Lazarus Chakwera said — that he doesn't acknowledge President Arthur Peter Mutharika's presidency in this country. ... We don't accept the results that were announced by the Malawi Electoral Commission."

President Peter Mutharika addresses Malawi Parliament, June 21, 2019. (L Masina/VOA)
President Peter Mutharika addresses Malawi Parliament, June 21, 2019. (L Masina/VOA)

The electoral commission declared Mutharika the winner of the election with 39% of the vote, while MCP candidate Lazarus Chakwera was a close second with 35%.

The opposition accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party of rigging the polls with the help of the president-appointed Electoral Commission.

Both the DPP and the commission deny the accusations.

When he finally delivered his state of the nation address, Mutharika said his government would curb corruption, which he said was rampant in the country. He promised stiffer sentences for those convicted of corruption or economic crimes, as well as the introduction of "a special court to handle corruption cases."

Kondwani Nankhumwa, the government's chief whip in parliament, said the conduct of the opposition lawmakers was not only unfortunate but also a disgrace to the nation. He said parliament would soon implement measures to stop further disruptions.

But MCP's Mkaka said the opposition lawmakers would boycott parliament only when Mutharika enters the chamber.

"Of course we will go back to parliament,” Mkaka said. “What we want is to pass the provision budget so that we enable provision of social services. We do not want any disruption of social services."

Parliament is expected to start its deliberations Monday.