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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 11:19 GMT
No go for Malawi senate
President Bakili Muluzi
President Muluzi: Achieved majority to push change through
Parliament in Malawi has passed a controversial bill to abolish a constitutional provision for the creation of a senate.

Members of the opposition Alliance for Democracy, Aford, walked out of parliament after the bill was passed by a two-thirds majority.

The leader of Aford, Chakufwa Chihana, said the passing of the bill meant Malawi was reverting to a one-party state.

But the Justice Minister, Peter Fachi, said the country was too poor to afford a second chamber.

"Government, after careful consideration, thought it cannot afford the cost of the senate," he told jeering opposition MPs.

He said that the government could barely afford the $6m a year needed to run the 193 member parliament.

Virtual senate

The senate was intended to have 80 indirectly elected members including traditional leaders and other interest groups.

Among other duties, senators were supposed to check how democracy was progressing and impeach the president if he violated the constitution.

But despite the provision in the constitution, the senate was never created.

Civil rights groups had vowed to fight government moves to scrap the senate and went to court, but they failed to get an injunction ruling in time.

At least 139 MPs out of the 192 voted for the abolition of the second chamber, exceeding the majority needed to amend the constitution.

Representatives of churches, traditional leaders and civil rights NGOs have said they will now meet to discuss their next move.

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11 Jan 01 | Africa
The cost of death in Malawi
10 Aug 00 | Africa
Aids 'killing' Malawi MPs
29 Dec 00 | Africa
Malawi minister freed on bail
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