Former Malawi Congress Party (MCP) chief whip in the National Assembly Lobin Lowe has replaced party president Lazarus Chakwera as leader of opposition in Parliament.
Chakwera resigned as legislator for Lilongwe North West and subsequently as leader of opposition in Parliament earlier this month to facilitate his eligibility for nomination as presidential candidate in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections in line with constitutional requirements.
Parliamentary Standing Orders indicate that the opposition party with the highest number of members of Parliament (MPs) appoints a leader of opposition.
To fit into Chakwera’s shoes as interim leader of opposition in Parliament, Lowe, who is Lilongwe Central MP, on Tuesday got 11 votes against nine for his closest challenger Mzimba Solora legislator Jacob Hara and three for outspoken Dedza East MP Juliana Lunguzi.
There were 23 MCP legislators who voted in the election. Ironically, Chakwera, despite resigning as MP, also voted.
But Lowe will not receive any terminal benefits accrued to the office of leader of opposition because he will be in office for less than 21 days, Clerk of Parliament Fiona Kalemba said in an earlier interview after Chakwera’s resignation.
Going by party hierarchy, it was expected that MCP second vice-president Harry Mkandawire would automatically step into Chakwera’s shoes, but the party said this would not have been possible.
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said the party would pledge its total support to Lowe as leader of opposition in Parliament, urging him to remember that he would be a representative of the whole opposition in Malawi.
He said: “Honourable Lowe is not just able, he is an experienced MP who knows what goes on in the august House and also has the ideologies and plans of MCP which he will represent well in this capacity. He is a mature man. It is our hope and prayer that all MPs will rally behind him”
Munthali also said that ordinarily Mkandawire would have been the leader of opposition, but the party went for duration of one’s membership.
Until he joined MCP last year, Mkandawire was a People’s Party (PP) elected MP.
Reacting to Lowe’s election, Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is also Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, described him as a sober-minded person who has contributed to the Business Committee diligently.
He said: “From the government side, we pledge to work with him. He has the respect of ordinary members due to his experience and personal relationship with them. I don’t see any member who will not be happy to work with him.”
Leader of PP in Parliament Ralph Mhone said Lowe was a level-headed person whom he will be comfortable to work with.
Lowe became legislator in 2009 and apart from being MCP chief whip, he was instrumental in proposing a Private Member’s Bill creating a National Children’s Commission which would have powers to investigate issues affecting children and coordinate activities of various players in the child rights sector.
During the last Parliament meeting, Lowe moved a motion asking government to institute a policy and law on site waste management, sanitation and alternative uses for waste.
Parliament is scheduled to hold a Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting from next Tuesday. The position of leader of opposition is critical as the holder forms part of the Business Committee chaired by the Speaker which works out business to be discussed in the National Assembly.