November 29, 2009 Mutharika seeks legislation to beef up his powers

BLANTYRE, Nov 23, 2009 (MalawiPolitics)-- Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, whose party enjoys a parliamentray majority, is seeking to beef up his powers before he exits the political stage in 2014.

A bill is in the works to give the President, whose DPP has 114 legislators of the 193 MPs in the House, the power to set a date for the local government elections, which were last held in 2000.

"Local government elections shall take place five years on a date to be determined by the President in consultation with the Electoral Commission provided that local government authorities shall stand dissolved at the end of five years following an election," the proposed bill says.

The proposal wants to remove reference to specific timing as to when local government elections are to be held.

The DPP could easily amend the constitution and secure two-thirds majority (128) with the support of 30 independent MPs to pass the law.

Mutharika has openly said his government does not have the money to pay 700 councillors their allowances. The next elections were set for May 2010, a year after the general elections held in May this year.

Meanwhile, parliament has started debating a police bill which wants to give powers to the law enforcers to undertake searches without a warrant.

Internal security minister Aaron Sangala was qouted by local media as saying senior police officers would be responsible for police searches, accompnaied by other officers to make the process transparent and accountable.

This, Sangala argued, would prevent "abuse of the process."

Opposition MPs are trying to block the bill, saying this was in conflict with Malawi's democratic dispensation.

"Malawi is now in democracy. It would be wrong to subject people to searches of their houses without a warrant," Peter Chalera, a legislator of the opposition Malawi congress Party, was qouted as telling parliament.

Atupele Muluzi, United Democratic Front leader in parliament, accused the government of rushing to pass bills, saying contributions from the opposition should also be considered.

"Let us not pass legislations for the sake of it...the laws we pass here will affect generations so they need serious deliberations," Atupele, son of ex-president Bakili Muluzi (1994-2004), said.

The 7,000 strong police force in Malawi is undergoing reform to give it a human face. During the tyranical rule of former president-for-life Kamuzu Banda, the police abused human rights.


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