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‘President Peter Mutharika dodging fresh election’

Opposition says excuses flimsy

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Ernest Thindwa

Political parties on the opposition side of the government in Parliament have accused President Peter Mutharika of using all tactics in the book to cling to power.

Leader of opposition in Parliament, Lobin Lowe, who was reacting to Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) said Mutharika’s speech resonates that he is clinging to power and he does not want the country to have a fresh presidential election, and that the president is using the threat of Covid-19 as an escape route.

“It was clear [in his speech] that the president’s reference to the court ruling was that, he is against the court ruling which nullified the 2019 presidential election and stated in no uncertain terms that he strongly believes that the court erred in its judgment. In short, Mutharika is saying he doesn’t agree with the court ruling,” Lowe said.

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In his address through a recorded video link Friday, Mutharika warned that any person plotting his ouster would be undermining the constitutional order and therefore committing treason.

Mutharika highlighted Section 83 of the Constitution which provides that a president should have, at least, an elective term of five years.

The Sona titled: “Balancing Development and Politics: Renewing Our Love for Our Country” followed his continued ‘attack’ on the Judiciary for nullifying the May 2019 presidential election. Mutharika accuses the Judiciary of “setting a wrong precedence.”

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“I respect the courts. Speaking my views when the courts err is not attacking the courts. This poor thinking must stop. As a matter of fact, no judge in this country must live in fear if you have a clear conscience. Just do your job right! We have set a precedence when your election as Members of Parliament can be nullified just because a well-meaning officer tried to correct a mistake,” he said.

He then implored Parliament to respect the court but not to agree to every judgement the court makes as a way of holding it accountable.

“And let us also admit that we sometimes do what is not right because the court has said so. But let us remember that Parliament is more supreme above the courts. We are elected members who

represent the people and we have the authority to make laws for the Judiciary to interpret,’’ he said

Mutharika opined that with the court nullifying the presidential election, the country will never have a credible election as there will always be irregularities in every election.

Law professor based at Chancellor College, Garton Kamchezera differed with Mutharika arguing that supremacy in the country is a preserve of the Constitution other than an arm of the government.

“In Malawi, supremacy is in the Constitution. There is no parliamentary supremacy, as was the case in some countries many years ago,” Kamchezera said.

Political analyst Ernest Thindwa said Mutharika’s address was reduced to a spirited agenda to undermine the Judiciary and the rule of law instead of building national unity.

Thindwa said the president should concede that Malawians have a right to choose who to govern them.

“It is now beyond reasonable doubt the interim president in his continued mood of abusing office is bent on denying Malawians their constitutional right to choose their leader through a free, fair and credible elections. Citizens have to rise to the occasion to demand and defend their constitutional right to elect a President of their choice in an election that reflects popular will.

“The President needs not be reminded that at the moment, he has no mandate and that the ultimate authority to rule derives from citizens. Where citizens are denied their right to renew or reassign the mandate to rule through democratic means, they have a legitimate reason to seek alternative and feasible means to exercise that right,” he said

Speaking on the business of the National Assembly, Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara said up to June 30, 2020 the house will be deliberating on the budget.

However, he implored the government to speed up drafting of the electoral reform bills for the house to consider within the court ordered 150 days to the election.

Aside politics, Mutharika said Malawi’s Real Gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate has been revised downwards to 1.9 percent from five percent this year due to negative impacts of Covid-19.

He further said the government has also revised downwards the real GDP projection for 2021 from 5.8 percent 4.5 percent.

The president, however, admitted that domestic revenue will significantly fall short of expenditure in the 2020/21 financial plan due to post-election violence and Covid-19 shocks which he said have severely impacted on the economy in a negative way.

He estimated that post-election demonstrations alone cost the economy about K62 billion.

Parliament is expected to meet for seven weeks to July 24, 2020 with high expectations that apart from the 2020/2021 budget, the house will agree on the next day of presidential election.

The High Court and Supreme Court ordered that the country should go to fresh polls following massive irregularities in the last presidential election.

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