United Democratic Front (UDF) members of Parliament (MPs) who have relocated to government benches have violated Section 65 of the constitution, a law that regulates movement of Members of Parliament once elected into the Legislature, Malawian law professor Danwood Chirwa has argued.
Chirwa, a professor of law at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, says Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya can declare vacant seats of the UDF MPs who have relocated to government benches.
Section 65 has remained a destabilising factor in the operations of parliament and the safeguarding of the country’s democracy.
Chirwa has been quoted in The Nation saying Section 65 speaks both to the minimum standards as well as aspirational standards as espoused by the Constitution.
“At the very minimum, it [the section] prevents MPs elected on party tickets from switching their allegiance once elected by way either of resigning from that political party or joining another political party.<
“Thus far, we know that UDF MPs have moved from opposition benches to government benches. That conduct can be used to support the view that those MPs have crossed the floor within the meaning of Section 65,” he is quoted saying.
UDF and DPP claim to be in a parliamentary coalition but Chirwa said there is lack of clear issue-based discussion between the two parties and a document that sets out their shared goals.
“What is being sold as a coalition is in actual fact a tribal pact between two tribal formations masquerading as political parties with a national agenda.
“Neither have we seen each party canvassing publicly and within their own parties and constituencies about the possibility and feasibility of the coalition.
“The absence of all these conditions renders the coalition nonexistence, but rather the absorption of one party by another, which has implications for Section 65,” the paper quoted the law scholar.
Public Affairs Committee (PAC), the country’s authoritative interfaith democracy watchdog and advocacy group, have asked the Speaker to crack the Section 65 whip on UDF MPs.
But Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale’s legal opinion –which the Speaker relies on – says UDF move is legal.
Constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongo, who is an associate professor of law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, also backed the UDF MPs, arguing Section 65 cannot whip them as they have not crossed the floor.
UDF MPs not affected by the move are Balaka North MP and hitherto leader of UDF in Parliament Lucius Banda, party president and Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Atupele Muluzi and Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Clement Chiwaya.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :