The Commonwealth Secretariat has welcomed the peaceful transition in Malawi and congratulated President Joyce Banda on assuming the countryâ€™s leadership mantle.
Banda, who was the countryâ€™s Vice-President since 2009, was sworn in on Saturday as Malawiâ€™s fourth President and first female Head of State following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.
In a brief statement issued in London on Sunday, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said he looked forward to working with Banda.
â€œMr Sharma said he looked forward to working with President Joyce Banda in continuing the practical partnership with the Commonwealth aimed at advancing its values and principles, including democracy, development and respect for diversity,â€ reads the statement.
Bandaâ€™s ascendancy to the Presidency came against the background of her strained relations with her former boss, Mutharika, who had personally picked her as running mate in the 2009 general elections on the platform of women empowerment.
However, in December 2010, Banda, who also served as first vice-president of the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was expelled from DPP officially for forming parallel structures against Mutharika. She was expelled alongside then DPP second vice-president Khumbo Kachali through a motion moved by Ntcheu Bwanje South Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Luscious Kanyumba.
DPP insiders, however, said Banda and Kachali were fired for refusing to endorse Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Professor Peter Mutharika as DPPâ€™s torch bearer in the 2014 general elections. Many analysts and commentators accused the DPP of lacking intra-party democracy through Mutharikaâ€™s imposition of his brother as heir apparent.
Banda moved on to form the Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) which has no official representation in Parliament but now is expected to have over 50 MPs following defections from DPP. Prior to her ascendancy to the presidency on Saturday, PP, which Banda leads in an interim capacity, had four MPs among its rank and file, namely, Anita Kalinde (Thyolo North), Jennifer Chilunga (Zomba Nsondole), Grace Maseko (Zomba Changalume) and Kachali (Mzimba South West).
Despite being expelled from the ruling party, Banda remained the countryâ€™s Vice-President and, by operation of Section 83 (4) of the Constitution, she automatically became President following Mutharikaâ€™s death.
Following news of Mutharikaâ€™s demise, some Cabinet ministers resolved that Banda could not assume the presidency because she formed her own political party.
However, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) described the resolution as illegal, saying â€œat no point in the history of the Republic of Malawi did Her Excellency President Joyce Banda cease to be Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi before 5th April 2012;â€ hence, any machinations by a group of persons to unconstitutionally assume the powers and duties of the President constitute the high crime of treason on the part of such individuals.