Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda has written 45 MPs who have declared themselves Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) members to defend themselves against a petition that seeks to have their seats declared vacant.
Chimunthu Banda said in an interview on Monday that he wrote the MPs after their former party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), asked him to declare their seats vacant in line with Section 65 of the Constitution.
Said the Speaker: “In line with the law, I have written to those affected MPs for their response which is supposed to be given within the seven days before I can make a decision.â€
Parliament sources indicate that most MPs made their public declarations about joining or supporting PP, but grew cold feet in writing the Speaker about their declaration.
But most MPs interviewed by The Nation sounded confident and played down the matter.
Leader of the House Henry Phoya, in reaction to the development, said: “We are watching the situation very, very closely. These are members who chose to support government in the House and we obviously need to support them in a time like this. They, therefore, have our full support.”
The Speakerâ€™s decision is expected by Wednesday next week and it could plunge the country into a political crisis should the dreaded Section 65, which empowers the Speaker to declare vacant a seat of an MP who ditches his/her party, be applied.
Government benches have 105 seats which would see its majority shrink to 60 seats which will be lower than a combined opposition of DPP and MCP.
There are 193 seats in Parliament.
During the 2004 to 2009 Parliament lifespan, DPP found itself in the same situation when the United Democratic Front (UDF) and other parties wanted its MPs expelled for flouting Section 65.
This was after Mutharika ditched UDF, a party that sponsored his presidency, to form DPP, a development that saw UDF MPs and some from other parties following him to form government. However, the section was not applied as there were court orders restraining the Speaker from enforcing it.