January 24, 2006

MPs distance themselves from impeachment bid

The collapse of an impeachment bid against Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika has set off a flurry of resignations by opposition parliamentarians distancing themselves from the parties that had sponsored it. Maxwell Milanzi, the United Democratic Front (UDF) MP who introduced the motion in Parliament in 2005, not only withdrew the bid but has also quit his party to become an independent. "I have decided to withdraw the motion because I have realised it has become very unpopular amongst the majority of Malawians and the donor community," he explained.
At least seven MPs have recently either resigned from the UDF or the main opposition Malawi Congress Party, with five of them announcing their intention of joining Mutharika's fledgling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A group of influential donors also protested the impeachment motion as a diversion at a time when Malawi was facing its worst drought in a decade, and voters punished the opposition in a string of by-elections won by the DPP at the end of 2005. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Henry Phoya said the drive to oust the president, which paralysed parliament for much of last year, was "now technically over". (Rts)

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