Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are racing against time as the two major parties are now occupied with lobbying independent legislators to join their parties to boost numbers as parliament gears for the election of Speaker next week.
Sources in DPP say the party has already identified three names; former Education minister Bright Msaka, former Labour and Manpower Development minister Francis Kasaila and former deputy speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje as possible candidates for the position.
The 192 legislators elected to date are broken down as follows Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) 62, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) 55, independents 55, United Democratic Front (UDF) 10, People’s Party (PP) five; UTM Party four and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) one.
DPP and MCP have since made manouvres to bolster their numbers by luring independent legislators before the National Assembly opens.
Members of parliament are currently undergoing orientation at Bingu International Conference Centre before they are sworn in on Monday and Tuesday next week, thereafter election of speaker and two deputy speakers.
MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali said the party has not yet shortlisted possible candidates for the position of speaker, saying the party is busy lobbying independent legislators join the main opposition bloc.
But Nyasa Times understands that the MCP has agreed to field a candidate from the North and three names have been shortlisted. They include Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, Catherine Gotani Hara and Jacob Hara, who is Mzimba Solola MP.
Other potential candidates being put forward are that of veteran MP Lilian Patel of UDF, Nancy Tembo, who won as an independent candidate, and UTM’s Chrissie Kanyasho (Kalamula), the former deputy Permanent Representative at Malawi Mission to United Nation (UN).
The female legislators are being put forward as women’s rights activists have launched a push for newly elected legislators to vote for a female Speaker of Parliament when the National Assembly elects the Speaker, First Deputy Speaker and Second Deputy Speaker next week.
Women’s Legal Resource Centre (Worlec) executive director Maggie Kathewera Banda said it was high time the country entrusted the responsibility of heading one of the three arms of government, the Legislature, in a woman.
Kathewera Banda said by electing a female Speaker of Parliament the country would demonstrate symbolism in progression of society and accord a chance to women to make critical decisions at the highest levels.
Malawi has never elected a female Speaker of Parliament. The closest women have come has been either First Deputy Speaker of Second Deputy Speaker. Female legislators who have previously served in such capacities include Esther Mcheka Chilenje, Loveness Gondwe and Juliana Mphande.
Chilenje, who has reclaimed her Nsanje North seat, is among the names being mentioned as possible candidates for the position of Speaker from DPP.
The new Parliament cycle has 44 female legislators, up from 32 in the 2014-19 Parliament, according to official results announced by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
Former Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda, who has bounced back into the House after a five-year break, is not running again for the post of head of legislature.
Section 33 of Parliamentary Standing Orders provides procedures for electing the Speaker of Parliament.
The Clerk of Parliament, who acts as the presiding officer, receives nominations before distributing ballot papers for a secret ballot which takes place in the presence of party monitors.The winner is announced based on the first-past-the-post electoral system.
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