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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08LILONGWE366
2008-06-23 13:15:00
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

MALAWI: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SUSPENDED AS MEDIATORS

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  MI 
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VZCZCXRO1179
RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLG #0366/01 1751315
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231315Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5334
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHINGTON DC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000366 

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/S - E. PELLETREAU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2018
TAGS: PGOV KDEM MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SUSPENDED AS MEDIATORS
PROPOSE COMPROMISE

REF: 07 LILONGWE 715

LILONGWE 00000366 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Acting DCM John Warner, Reason 1.4 d.

Summary
-------


1. (C) On June 20, Speaker Louis Chimango suspended the
National Assembly after the legislature failed to pass the
national budget by President Mutharika's stated June 20
deadline. Coincidentally, the June 20 meeting was prevented
by demonstrations that blocked opposition MPs from entering
State House where Parliament meets. On June 23, President
Mutharika echoed comments from his June 19 national address,
saying that the legislature may resume sitting as early as
"next week" if there is evidence that the National Assembly
will deliberate and pass the budget. The suspension comes
less than a week after a clergy mediation team proposed a
compromise solution to all political parties that called for
the passing of the national budget and the implementation of
the floor-crossing related Section 65 of the Constitution in
small, linked actions. While some believe the suspension of
the National Assembly will give the parties time to formalize
the proposed compromise solution, confrontational public
statements by both Mutharika and former president Muluzi
diminish hopes of a negotiated solution. End summary.

National Assembly Suspended


--------------------------





2. (U) One day after President Mutharika's June 19 national
address reiterated a June 20 deadline for passage of the
national budget, Speaker Louis Chimango suspended the
National Assembly until an undetermined date. The final
scheduled meeting of the session, was stopped by
demonstrations outside the State House, where the National
Assembly meets. While no one was injured in the
demonstrations, the protesters blocked opposition legislators
from entering the grounds, effectively preventing the
meeting. In both his June 19 address and in public comments
on June 23, President Mutharika maintained that the
legislature may resume sitting as early as "next week" if
there is evidence that the National Assembly will deliberate
and pass the national budget.

Mediators Propose a "Package Deal"


--------------------------





3. (C) The suspension comes less than one week after a clergy
mediation team proposed a compromise solution to both
government and opposition members of Parliament. The
compromise solution, which has not been publicly released,
called for dividing up budget approval and implementation of
the floor-crossing related Section 65 of the Constitution
into small, linked actions. The mediators, who came from
Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim faiths, emphasized that any
solution must be both legal, and facilitate simultaneous
passage of the budget and implementation of Section 65, with
both sides agreeing to the plan in its entirety. The

mediators further suggested a nine-day timeline with
verifiable actions relating to both sides' goals on each day
to ensure progress.

Two Outcome Scenarios


--------------------------





4. (C) The mediators went beyond proposing a solution to
describe post-event scenarios and possible effects on each
side. After consulting with legal experts, the clergy
mediators put forward three assumptions.



A. Any MP affected by Section 65 whose seat is declared
vacant, could seek an injunction that would halt
implementation.



B. Court cases related to Section 65 injunctions would
not be resolved by the courts before the National
Assembly dissolved in March 2009.



C. Vacant seats would not be able to be filled through
by-elections given the imminence of May 2009 Parliament
elections.

Based on these assumptions, mediators saw two likely
scenarios after implementation of the deal: 1) adjournment
with government scheduling an additional sitting prior to the
2009 elections and 2) adjournment until after May 2009
elections.

LILONGWE 00000366 002.2 OF 002





5. (C) The mediators believed scenario one - scheduling an
additional sitting - offered the government the advantages of
passing election-related bills, as well as development bills
that could enhance its image in the eyes of the electorate.
At the same time, mediators believed this scenario would
allow the opposition to undertake a mid-term review of the
budget, preventing emergence of budget lines that could be
used for campaign purposes.



6. (C) Mediators believed scenario two - adjourning until
after the elections - would allow the government to deliver
essential services including fertilizer subsidies without
impediment, improving its chances in forthcoming elections.
This scenario would also put to rest any discussion of
possible impeachment of Mutharika by the National Assembly,
while allowing the opposition to achieve its political goal
of implementing Section 65 and demonstrating a commitment to
upholding the Constitution.

Mutharika, Muluzi Still Confrontational


--------------------------





7. (SBU) While some hope that the current suspension will
give the parties time to discuss implementation of the
mediators' compromise solution, both Mutharika and former
president Muluzi continue to make confrontational public
comments. At a groundbreaking ceremony for a new road on
June 23, Mutharika said that if the National Assembly did not
pass the budget by July 1, he would stop the salary payments
of opposition members of Parliament. Mutharika added that
the opposition just wanted to drag the budget process out for
five months so they could draw larger allowances and he would
not accept that. On the same day, Muluzi promised supporters
in Blantyre that he would "fight and finish (Mutharika) at
the polls" and that he would not let Mutharika go "scot-free"
for abusing the United Democratic Front and dumping the party
that ushered him to power.

Comment


--------------------------




8. (C) The threat of withholding allowances in July if the
budget is not passed does not appear to be legal and will not
move the opposition to action. If anything, the threat may
delay implementation of any compromise as opposition would
have a new example of the unconstitutional behavior of
Mutharika to take to the public. Still, the suspension of
the National Assembly, and Mutharika's follow-on statements
that the National Assembly could reconvene as early as "next
week" leave more room for both sides to negotiate than last
September's prorogation (reftel), but it seems clear that for
the compromise solution to be successfully implemented,
Mutharika and Muluzi must still be convinced the solution is
better than the status quo.
EASTHAM