Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has appointed Lilongwe Central legislator Lobin Lowe as interim leader of opposition in Parliament (LOP).
Making the announcement before adjourning the House for the day, First Deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo said MCP had communicated to Parliament its leadership.
He said: “I would like to announce that the leadership of MCP has provided leaders of the House as follows: Interim leader of opposition Lobin Lowe, interim party chief whip Sam Kawale [Dowa North East] and deputy chief whip is Khumbize Chiponda [Kasungu South East].”
When the first meeting of the 48th Session of Parliament started, there was no LOP for the first time since Malawi embraced plural politics through a June 14 1993 national referendum and the subsequent first post-independence multiparty general elections in May 1994.
MCP officials have vehemently protested being described as an opposition party, saying they do not recognise President Peter Mutharika as the legitimate winner of the presidential election; hence, appointing a substantive LOP would be seen as accepting the President amid a court challenge of the presidential vote.
According to Standing Orders, the party with the most legislators other than the one in power sponsors a LOP. MCP won 55 seats in the 193-seat Parliament while DPP got 62.
Malawi does not follow parliamentary democracy; hence, the party that sponsors the winning President forms government regardless of the number of seats in Parliament. For instance, in 2004, MCP had the most seats in the National Assembly but it was United Democratic Front that formed government after its presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika triumphed.
In an interview after the announcement, Lowe said he was grateful to the party’s leadership for entrusting him with the position and promised to serve as expected. Lowe also served as interim LOP from February to May this year after Chakwera resigned as legislator to fulfil a legal technicality to pave the way for submission of his presidential nomination papers.