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Malawian opposition parties give up defending of constitution section
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07:49, August 23, 2007

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Malawi's two opposition parties have given up their defending of section 65 of the constitution unfavorable to the government, the website of The Nation newspaper of the country reported Wednesday.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on Tuesday said they have given up the section 65 fight, complaining that their stance to defend the republican constitution was misinterpreted as a ploy to block the national budget.

UDF leader in the House George Nga Mtafu and MCP spokesman Respicius Dzanjalimodzi made the revelation when responding to questions from The Nation on their next course of action following the High Court ruling that barred parliamentarians from discussing section 65.

Soon after the Supreme Court validated section 65 on June 29, 2007 -- which stops legislatures from dumping their sponsoring parties to join others, the MCP and UDF led opposition MPs in calling for the Speaker of the National Assembly to declare vacant seats of MPs who are deemed to have crossed the floor in the House.

But multiple and bruising court battles eventually saw the opposition buckle after the High Court stopped them from discussing the section in the House. The opposition want the national budget and section 65 to be discussed concurrently.

In an interview, Mtafu said because people and the media have insisted on the budget debate and not section 65, they should not ask what the opposition is going to do.

A political deadlock in the country's 193-member opposition strong parliament is threatening adoption of the 2007/08 government budget pegged at about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars.

The standoff between opposition and the 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 and 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 numbered over 70 defected from other parties, especially the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).

Chaos erupted in the house last month 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.

Source: Xinhua

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