Government bows to opposition demands
The government side in Parliament has bowed down to opposition members’ demands that passing of the electoral bills, which includes setting of the election date, be prioritised above any other business in the House.
Monday’s Order Paper indicated that the Leader of Opposition was expected to respond to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) that he delivered on Friday last week when he was opening the 2020/21 national budget meeting.
But the opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) insisted that setting the election date be prioritised over responding to the Sona.
Leader of Opposition, Lobin Lowe, said in an interview that the opposition lawmakers are tired of what he described as tricks being played by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to delay or postpone the court-ordered election.
Lowe said the opposition “will not be fooled this time to dance to the tune of the DPP”, saying time is not on Parliament’s side.
“They told us that they would be bringing the electoral bills which contain the date of the election today. But when we looked at the Order Paper, there was nothing like that. What was there was that I respond to the Sona.
“What we are saying is that we don’t have time to waste. We need to prioritise important things. Malawians out there want to know when they are voting. We won’t be fooled. Even after the bills are passed we want the President to assent to them so that we vote within the time ordered by the courts,” Lowe said.
The standstill at Parliament came just 24 days before the expiry of the 150 days set by the Constitutional Court for the fresh presidential election to be held in the country.
Although politicians have been crisscrossing the country searching for votes, the date of the election remains unknown after Malawi Electoral Commission indicated that it is Parliament that is supposed to set it.
Speaking after a Business Committee meeting, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara said the committee agreed that the government side would distribute the four electoral bills this afternoon for deliberation tomorrow.
Hara added that the committee agreed that the House sticks to the seating arrangement of not more than 100 lawmakers in the chamber.
In his address, Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa said the government side is not afraid of the election as others are propagating.
Nankhumwa confirmed that the government will bring to Parliament the electoral bills today, saying they are equally ready for the fresh election.
During yesterday’s sitting, Hara announced that three MPs, Arthur Chipungu (Ntcheu North East), Alexander Mwisho (Ntcheu Bwanje South) and Isaac Kaneka (Blantyre West), had applied to her office to be moved to the opposition benches.