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Malawian president contemplates early election amid political impasse
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08:26, July 23, 2007

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Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika Sunday threatened to call for the country's early presidential and parliamentary elections if current political standoff in parliament continued.

"I will call for early general elections if this childish behavior continues in parliament," an irate Mutharika told a public meeting that he addressed in Kawale, one of the populous residential areas of the capital, Lilongwe.

Mutharika's strong remarks come in the wake of a political deadlock in the country's 193 member opposition strong parliament which is threatening adoption of the 2007/08 government budget pegged at about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars.

The house only allowed government to spend about 81 million dollars for the month of July.

The standoff between opposition and government in the country's parliament has come about following the June 15 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling on Section 65 of the country's constitution.

The section states that legislators who quit their parties which sponsored them into parliament and joined other parties also represented in the house should be deemed to have crossed the floor and therefore lose their seats.

The court ruling dealt a painful blow to President Bingu Wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whose majority members in parliament numbering over 70 defected from other parties, especially the former ruling UDF.

Chaos erupted in the house two weeks ago when the opposition demanded that no debate on the budget should take place until the Speaker ruled on the fate of legislators who were deemed to have crossed the floor by resigning from their political parties to join others.

The development forced Speaker Louis Chimango to suspend the budget sitting of the house indefinitely.

Mutharika therefore told the cheering crowd at the meeting that he expected parliament to pass the whole one year budget when the house resumes its budget sitting on Monday, July 23.

"Government will not beg that the budget be passed .. It is the responsibility of parliament to pass the budget," he said adding that a budget sitting of any parliament all over the world was the most important one.

The president, however, said the country's laws empowered him to run government until next year if parliament decided to not pass the budget.

"If this budget is not passed or if parliament decides to just approve another monthly expenditure then I will run the government my way as empowered by the laws of Malawi," he said.

Mutharika took advantage of the rally to send a stern warning to his opponents in the opposition that he had "teeth" and he could bite adding that he had been quiet for too long and that he would not pounce on his opponents.

Mutharika added that he and his party were not afraid of the Supreme Court ruling but asked opposition parliamentarians to first pass the budget then tackle the Section 65.

The court ruling was the climax in a long-running dispute between President Mutharika and the opposition parties, a situation that forced the president to seek interpretation of the Supreme Court regarding Section 65 of the country's constitution, which is about crossing the floor of parliamentarians in the national assembly.

The UDF wrote the Speaker to declare vacant the seats of the 70 MPs but Mutharika sought the court's intervention, claiming that Section 65 of the Constitution, which restricts defections of parliamentarians, must be scrapped off from the laws of Malawi since it contravenes other sections of the same constitution that grant people freedom of association and freedom to hold political opinion.

The president then referred the issue to the Supreme Court after the Constitutional Court ruled a few months ago that Section 65 was valid prompting opposition parties to pressurize Speaker of Parliament, Louis Chimango, to declare seats of those deemed to have crossed the floor vacant.

Mutharika, who was elected into office under the UDF ticket in the May 2004 elections, dumped the party in February 2005 to form the DPP after falling out with his predecessor, former president Bakili Muluzi.

Following his quitting of the UDF, his cabinet ministers who were UDF parliamentarians followed him together with some other members.

Source: Xinhua

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