People’s Party (PP) lawmakers either abstained or were absent during the voting of crucial Electoral Reforms (Amendment) Bills this week, further weakening the opposition side in Parliament and confirming speculation that they had a working arrangement with government to defeat the bills.
Their actions and decisions gave the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) more numbers and weakened the opposition, led by the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in the House.
The DPP used its numerical advantage in Parliament to shoot down the Constitutional Amendment Bill, and the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Amendment Bill both with proposals to change the electoral system from First- Past-the-Post to the 50%+1 system of electing a president, councillor and MP.
The voting patterns in the rejected bills, including the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill and Constitutional (Amendment) No 2 bills was evidence enough of how some PP lawmakers have changed their allegiance.
In the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill, the records indicate that 29 MPs were absent, two abstained, 64 voted yes for the bill and 97 voted against the second reading of the bill, effectively halting its progress.
During the discussion of the Constitutional (Amendment) No 2 bill on Friday, 34 lawmakers were not present, no MP abstained, 59 voted for the bill while 100 MPs rejected it.
Some of the erstwhile critics within the PP camp who joined the government side in shooting down the Electoral Bills include former PP Leader in the House Uladi Mussa, PP Vice President and spokesperson on Finance Ralph Jooma, Chitipa South lawmaker Werani Chilenga and Patricia Nangozo of Zomba Central.
Other PP MPs who backed the DPP and voted against the bills are Machinga South East legislator Wilson Ndomondo, Karonga South MP Malani Mtonga, Wallace Chawawa of Zomba Chingale and Zomba Changalume MP, John Chikalimba.
However, some MPs including party president Joyce Banda’s son and Zomba Malosa lawmaker Roy Kachale and Kamlepo Kalua of Rumphi East were absent at the time most of the bills were being discussed and rejected. Their absence lessened the opposition numbers.
Nkhatabay North lawmaker Ephraim Chiume abstained in other bills and voted for the reforms in others while Harry Mkandawire of Mzimba West voted yes to reforms in all times and was available throughout the crucial voting times in parliament.
So despite the yes votes in support of the bills coming from the PP’s Kasungu North East Wakuda Kamanga, James Munthali of Chitipa North, Maquenda Chunga of Mzimba North, PP Leader in the House Ralph Mhone, PP spokesperson Noah Chimpeni, and Godfrey Munkhondya of Chitipa Wenya, the numbers were not enough to beat the government side.
Even the numerical support from Aford’s Frank Mwenifumbo and Enock Chihana, Lucius Banda of UDF, former vice president Khumbo Kachali and independent MPs such as Joseph Chidanti Malunga and Jacqueline Kouwenhoven, the numbers were still not enough, worsened by consistent absenteeism of some MCP MPs
The PP MPs that decided to vote with the DPP or abstained were the ones that met President Peter Mutharika early this month at State House and were accused of making a deal to support the DPP in Parliament.
We could not, however, independently verify what DPP promised each PP MP to support them in Parliament, despite speculation that money and cabinet positions were put on the table to woo them.
Jooma insisted that he has not been absent in Parliament but cut the line when we asked him why he sided with government.
Kalua could not be reached on phone the last two days.
Kachale was reported to be in the USA visiting his mother.
On his part, Mtonga, explained that he supports the bill in its entirety especially that the proposed 50 percent +1 should be applied even to MPs and councillors but voted against its tabling because his constituents do not fully understand the bills.
“Some people are saying the 50 percent +1 should only be applied to the president but even myself as an MP I need to be elected by a majority to save my constituency with all the legitimacy but when I was coming to Parliament I asked my constituents if they understood the bills but they said no,” he said.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues