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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 10:14 GMT
Malawi's 'third-term' bill shelved
President Bakili Muluzi
Muluzi is due to step down next year
The Malawi Government has backed down in its attempts to allow President Bakili Muluzi to stand for a third term in office.

A bill to change the constitution has been withdrawn from parliament in the face of fierce opposition.

The (ruling party) has realized it is not going to get the necessary support it needs

Peter Kaleso
Sacked minister
The surprise announcement was made by Justice Minister Henry Dama Phoya at the end of an extraordinary parliamentary session to discuss the bill.

Police also had to intervene in parliament to prevent fights breaking out between rival MPs after the bill was withdrawn.

Opposition lawmakers demanded an immediate vote, confident that the government would fail to get the necessary two-thirds majority.

'Be honest'

A similar bill was narrowly defeated in July last year.

The issue has divided Malawians and when the debate started on Monday, police had to fire tear gas to disperse some 4,000 people protesting against the bill.

Malawi police
Police had to disperse anti-third term protesters on Monday
On Tuesday, Mr Muluzi sacked Commerce and Industry Minister Peter Kaleso because of his opposition to the 'third term' bill.

Mr Phoya said he did not known whether the government would attempt to reintroduce the bill.

"The legal committee of parliament will advise my office on what to do and I will have to make a decision," he said.

But Mr Kaleso believes the bill will not be passed.

"We should not lie here. The main reason the bill was not put to a vote is because the (ruling party) has realized it is not going to get the necessary support it needs to muster," he said.

Unless the constitution is changed, Mr Muluzi is due to step down in 2004.

See also:

10 Sep 02 | Africa
05 Jul 02 | Africa
15 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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