Freedom House commends the orderly transfer of power and respect for Malawi’s constitution, following the swearing in of former vice president, Joyce Banda on April 7. The decision for Banda to assume power comes after former president Bingu wa Mutharika died last week from massive cardiac arrest. Banda is the first female head of state in southern Africa, and will remain president until the country’s next elections in 2014.
Freedom House calls for a peaceful and orderly transition of power in Malawi following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. State media reported on April 5 that the 78-year-old president was hospitalized in the capital city of Lilongwe and then transferred to South Africa for treatment. Although the government has withheld an official announcement, BBC and Reuters cite doctors and cabinet ministers who confirmed the president’s death following cardiac arrest. Under the constitution, Vice President Joyce Banda should assume the presidency until the next elections in 2014.
The arbitrary arrest of John Kapito, chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, is yet another alarming example of the rapidly deteriorating environment for human rights defenders in Malawi, according to Freedom House.
On July 26, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government aid agency, announced it would place an operational hold on all money intended for Malawi while it reviews the agency’s partnership with the country. This announcement comes as a response to the violent crackdown by the Malawian government on demonstrators protesting rising food and fuel prices, as well as what many citizens view as increasingly authoritarian moves by President Bingu wa Mutharika. Nineteen people were killed after Malawian authorities opened fire on assembled protesters and 500 people have since been arrested and detained by authorities, with many civil society leaders and media professionals hiding in fear for their life.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Over the last twenty years political conflicts substantial and minor have arrived at the doorstep of the Malawian judiciary. The Parliament has been dysfunctional and unstable; the Executive has pushed the democratic limits of their power, whereas in contrast, the judiciary has represented a core stabilizing institution for Malawi’s fledgling democracy.
Freedom House released an analysis of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa showing that the region has experienced notable increases in freedom over the past generation, although more setbacks than gains were seen in 2006.
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