"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Budget discussions under way in Malawi

Blantyre - Malawian lawmakers finally kicked off a budget debate on Tuesday after a one-and-a-half month stalemate and a threat from the president that he would dissolve parliament.

"The government bench started the debate after mediation efforts," parliamentary spokesperson Leonard Mengezi told AFP. "The MPs will debate the budget for 21 days before approving it."

Mengezi said the powerful opposition, which has flatly refused to debate the budget over the past weeks, remained quiet in the House and did not contribute to the debate.

"There will be hiccups here and there, but this is a good sign that debate has finally started," said Mengezi, in reference to the political stand-off.

The debate began after President Bingu wa Mutharika threatened earlier Tuesday to dissolve the House within two days if debate failed to take place.

Mutharika and the opposition have been at loggerheads for weeks over the budget debate, with opposition deputies calling for the expulsion of 41 lawmakers who defected to government benches before the debate can proceed.

Mutharika, who is often undermined by the country's powerful opposition, said the 193-member House had "abrogated its responsibility and become irrelevant for the development of this country." - Sapa-AFP

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