|9. May 2008
Malawi suspends parliament as gov't, opposition meet
Malawi's parliament has been suspended while the government and opposition hold talks to avert a political crisis that threatens to derail international donor programmes.
"Parliament has not met for three days now because of the talks and I have been asked to adjourn until next week," parliament speaker Louis Chimango told the press.
President Bingu wa Mutharika invited the opposition leadership for talks this week to end an impasse over the right of parliamentarians to switch their party allegiance -- a sensitive issue which led to a 5-day opposition boycott of the assembly.
President Bingu Mutharika has admitted that the discussions he had initiated with the opposition to find solutions to the deadlock in parliament, have completely failed to achieve intended results.
Addressing a rally at Dowa Community Centre ground after a conducting a groundbreaking ceremony of a Lumbadzi-Dowa Mchezi K3.1 Billion road network courtesy of tax payers' money on Friday, Mutharika said the discussions have failed because the opposition still insists that the House should start with Section 65 of the Constitution.
The Section empowers the Speaker of the National Assembly to declare vacant seats of all legislators who defected to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from the opposition.
"The opposition wants all parliamentarians who joined the DPP to lose their seats by the 16th May, then thereafter, we will have budget. But I want budget to come first, so that we should have development in the country," a worried Mutharika, told the people apparently to get sympathy.
Mutharika said he had called for the talks to ensure that the current political impasse should be solved through dialogue. "But the opposition has other priorities, which are detrimental to the progress of this country." Bingu said: "By insisting that we should start with the budget, it does not mean that I don't want Section 65. This is just a question of priorities."
At this point, Mutharika said if the opposition continues to reject bills which are for national development, he will call for a national referendum, to enable people decide what they want between development and Section 65.
"I want you people to decide whether you want myself, Tembo or [Dr] Bakili Muluzi to rule this country. These people don't want to prosper. They want you to be in perpetual poverty," Mutharika told the crowd, which included the Speaker of the National Assembly, Louis Chimango and second deputy speaker Jones Chingola.
But government insiders blamed the collapse of the talks to the President approach. "The President intimidated the opposition leaders up to the extent of hinting that he would be arresting them. He lacked decorum in the talks hence he was sidelined in the second round of talks where we proceeded well," said a senior minister from Phalombe.