Speaker Richard Msowoya yesterday was forced to abruptly curtail proceedings in the National Assembly in Lilongwe after his rare tie-breaker vote in favour of the opposition riled the government side.
His vote was needed to break the tie in line with a Standing Order permission he enjoys in such circumstances.
This followed a move by Kasungu West member of Parliament (MP) Alex Major (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) to waive some standing orders to bring on the floor a motion on electoral reforms that appeared on the supplementary order paper.
The Speaker granted a division vote after a voice vote on the tricky matter proved inconclusive. The vote saw the opposition and the government tying 65 votes apiece, with—surprisingly—62 members being absent.
As both sides awaited how the Speaker would vote, to break the tie, he said: “It is normal. A son shall follow the father. I will vote ‘Yes’ [for the motion to be brought on the floor, as the opposition wanted].”
There were chaotic scenes on the government side, with virtually all MPs there standing up in protest.
“This is rigging!” some chorused, with yet others expressing disappointment that the Speaker, often deemed neutral in his leadership of the House, had blatantly shown his opposition bias.
Msowoya is vice-president of the official opposition MCP. But many, including his detractors, concede that he has often taken a middle-of-the-road stand in running Parliament’s affairs.
Amid the discontent, the government side—through Leader of the House George Chaponda—asked for a vote recount, with others saying their totals showed the government in the lead.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia was welcomed, on behalf of the government side, to the ‘tally centre’ by the Speaker, along with Dowa East MP Richard Chimwendo Banda (MCP), on behalf of the opposition.n