Political analyst Augustine Magolowondo sees recent defections, especially by some legislators, as a raw deal to their voters and that the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is consolidating its power in the National Assembly.
In a written response to The Nation in view of defections by several politicians, including members of Parliament (MPs) David Bisnowaty (Lilongwe City Centre Constituency), Patrick Makina (Zomba Ntonya) and Davis Katsonga (Mwanza Central), to DPP, Magolowondo observed that the defections will also shake up the current distribution of power in Parliament.
He said: “To the electorate, such defections do change the social contract between them and their MP. I mean the basis upon which the MP was elected. Even if the MP would argue that he [or she] had consulted constituents extensively before defecting, it is hard to prove this. Only an election is the best proof.
“Where MPs are involved, it is inevitable that such defections shake up the balance of power in Parliament beyond the sitting plan. In Parliament, the DPP has stepped up its voting strength at the expense of the opposition bench.
“At the same time, these defections once again raise the constitutional question of crossing the floor. Will Section 65 be evoked? We are yet to see.”
Makina won his seat in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections on People’s Party (PP) ticket, but was expelled mid this year for allegedly promoting DPP interests whereas Bisnowaty was an independent and Katsonga made it as his now deregistered Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP) sole MP.
The trio was unveiled on Sunday during a political rally President Peter Mutharika addressed at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe. Their political switch swelled the number of DPP legislators in the 193-member House to 58.
At the start of the life of the current National Assembly in 2014, DPP had 50 MPs followed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) with 48, PP with 26, United Democratic Front at 15 and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and CCP with one each. Independents stood at 52.
However, with time, some independents changed their political status and joined either DPP or MCP.
Currently, DPP boasts of 58 MPs, MCP has 54, PP 25, UDF 14 and Aford one with independents reduced to 38. Worth noting is that Speaker Richard Msowoya who won on MCP ticket, First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje (independent) and Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya (UDF) are not counted among voting members of their respective parties.
DPP is also in a working relationship with UDF. However, both DPP and the opposition claim to have some of the independents on their side.
Magolowondo dismissed suggestions that the fact that the three legislators who have joined DPP defeated DPP aspirants in the 2014 parliamentary race could stir trouble in the party, arguing that if anything, the situation would enhance competition.
He said: “This cannot be described as a mess. Rather, it heightens internal competition in the case in point. It puts pressure on any prospective candidates to demonstrate to the electorate and their own party as to why they are best placed to be the torchbearer of the party in the upcoming general elections in 2019.”
There have also been suggestions that some of the defectors could be politically positioning themselves for the 2019 elections to contest on DPP ticket, to which party spokesperson Francis Kasaila said all newcomers were vetted before being accepted.
He said: “We might not know the motives, but we know for sure those joining us do not have any intension of destabilising the party. We did our own vetting analysis and we have seen that these people can actually help in building the party in many ways than one.”
PP emerged as the biggest loser in the defections with its expelled legislator Makina, former spokesperson Ken Msonda, former director of women’s affairs Mary Makungwa, ex-provincial chairperson (North) Sabon Mchizi and members Bintony Kutsaila and professors Etta Banda and Isaac Lamba.
In an earlier interview after the announcement of their joining DPP, PP spokesperson Noah Chimpeni said the former governing party will not shed tears for most of the members he described as political nomads who had constructively resigned from its rank and file.
He said only Makungwa, a founding member of PP, would be missed. n