Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera yesterday started his second term as a member of Parliament (MP) and possibly Leader of Opposition, depending on outcome of the election petition case in the Constitutional Court.
Chakwera, alongside UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, is contesting the results of the May 21 presidential election, citing irregularities.
Chakwera took oath of office and oath of allegiance alongside over 191 other MPs to mark the beginning of the 2019 to 2024 new Parliament business.
While contesting for the presidential seat, Chakwera also contested for a parliamentary position in Lilongwe North West Constituency.
Section 52 of the Republic of Malawi Constitution reads: “Every member before taking seat and office shall take and subscribe in the National Assembly oath of allegiance…”
Chakwera, who was escorted by scores of party supporters and officials, arrived in the chamber before the swearing-in ceremony started around 9am. But he was sworn in two hours later.
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, who also swore in President Peter Mutharika after being declared winner in the controversial polls, presided over yesterday’s ceremony.
People in the visitors’ gallery and opposition benches shouted and whistled cheerfully as officials gave Chakwera his turn to take oath.
Looking composed and calm, the MCP president, who was leader of opposition in the House from 2014 until his resignation before the launch of the 2019 official campaign, said he will truthfully serve Malawians in the House.
Soon after the ceremony, Chakwera left the chamber amid commotion that ensued inside and outside the House. Several of them chanted pro-Chakwera slogans while others touted him as the current ‘government’.
Other notable legislators who took the two oaths on their return to the House were Rumphi East lawmaker Kamlepo Kalua, Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga, Dowa East Parliamentarian Richard Chimwendo Banda and Nsanje North MP Esther Mcheka Chilenje.
Only 33 percent (64 out of 193) of MPs from the last Parliament have returned to the House in 2019.
Some MPs who were sworn in yesterday are in the House for the first time.
Others who are making a comeback include Lilongwe City West MP Nancy Tembo, Mzimba North East MP Catherine Gotani Hara and Chitipa North MP Nick Masebo.
The swearing-in ceremony signifies the first serious business of the new 48th Session of Parliament.
In 2014, Parliament also delayed to begin business because there were also new MPs who needed training and induction before assuming their responsibilities.
The ceremony is expected to end today to pave the way for the election of Speaker of the National Assembly before convening of the Business Committee that will discuss the business that will be undertaken in the House after the opening of the Parliament this Friday.
Assistant Clerk of Parliament (Public Relations and Protocol) Leornard Mengezi said in an interview yesterday that Parliament will soon have in place oversight committees that will be trained before the budget meeting starts in September this year.
This is what will delay the passing of the 2019/20 financial year budget.
But Parliament will approve a three-month provisional budget.
He said: “There is no difference between how business is unfolding this time and in 2014. Meetings that come with general elections attract financial resolutions. The same thing happened in 2014.”
At the moment, there are no committees or Cabinet ministers.
Meanwhile, political parties have not yet appointed leaders who, together with the Speaker and the Business Committee, will discuss what business will be dealt with during the next three weeks.
But according to Mengezi, committees will be known by end of business tomorrow, when the Speaker of the House will also be elected.
President Mutharika is expected to officially open the 48th session of Parliament on Friday this week.
He opened the 47th session in 2014 on June 16 2014.