President Joyce Banda was voted into power as Vice-President together with the late president Bingu wa Mutharika on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ticket in the 2009 General Elections. Along the way, Mutharika fired Banda from the DPP and she formed PP.
However, after Mutharikaâ€™s death on April 5 this year, Banda had to be sworn in as President, according to Section 83 (4) of the Constitution which mandates the Vice-President to take over in case of incapacitation or death of the President. The Constitution does not mention the party that the VP must come from.
Therefore, Banda went into government with PP, a party that was not part of the 2009 elections and has no representation in Parliament.
Questions have since emerged if the PP qualifies to be called the ruling party or if the mantle still remains with DPP.
But, lest people forget, something similar also happened in 2005 when DPP was formed after former president Mutharika dumped the United Democratic Front (UDF).
There were a lot of arguments on the same but with time, those who had declared allegiance with DPP took over the ruling party seats in Parliament and UDF moved on to opposition benches; and the media, together with the public, accepted DPP as the ruling party.
Commenting on what makes a political party, Chancellor College political scientist lecturer Joseph Chunga said the question can best be answered in the context of a clear distinction between Presidential System of Government and the Parliamentarian System of Government.
In the former system of government, a ruling political party is formed by the party in which the Head of State is coming from while in the latter system of government, the ruling party is formed by the party which has more legislators.
But, the system of government for Malawi cannot be clearly pinpointed and most analysts have acknowledged that it is a mix of the twoâ€”Presidential System of Government and the Parliamentarian System of Government.
â€˜PP has all the rightsâ€™
Still, Chunga feels that PP has all rights to be labelled as the ruling party.
â€œOur system of government is not that clear because we vote for an individual and not a party.
â€œI would say we defect more to the Presidential System of Government. However, we also have elements of the Parliamentarian System although you would never see legislators serving in the Cabinet and as well as Parliament in this system.
â€œBecause Banda, who forms the Executive, is with the PP, I feel that the PP has all the rights to be called the ruling party. We vote for individuals and not parties and Banda is now with the PP,â€ said Chunga.
Sharing Chungaâ€™s sentiments is Michael Chasukwa, also a political science lecturer at Chancellor College. He says by association to the President, PP can claim to be the ruling party although it lacks the mandate from Malawians.
According to him, in an ideal situation a ruling political party should be one that has gone through election and has been mandated to rule by the citizenry.
â€œIt is all about understanding the type of government and I feel we lean more towards the Presidential System where an individual is more important in the elections. If you remember correctly, Justin Malewezi contested for presidency on an independent ticket which tells us that one does not really need a political party.
â€œBut as it is now the PP are ruling because at the end of the day they will be formulating the policies, giving the directions as the party with the most influence,â€ said Chasukwa.
Failure to have a straight forward answer to this issue shows that there is a gap in the Constitution, electoral law and all other necessary governing documents.
â€˜Law is silent on ruling, opposition partiesâ€™
University of Malawiâ€™s Chancellor College constitutional expert Edge Kanyongolo was last week quoted as having said there is no such thing as a ruling or opposition party in Malawi because the laws are silent on this. Yet, these terms do not escape the mouths of politicians, media, civil society and everybody else concerned.
Kanyongolo said: â€œThe Constitution or the countryâ€™s laws rarely deal with political parties and there is nothing like opposition or ruling party in the laws. With the Presidency going to PP, it means the party now has the mandate to push government agenda in Parliament.â€
To this effect, Chunga and Chasukwa agree that there is need that effort is made to put in place laws that clearly define a ruling party in the country.
According to Chunga this could have serious implications on the governing or the country. This is because people, rather than presidents, are put into power basing on the manifestos of their political party.
In 2004, the UDF was trusted to rule the country because Malawians thought the party made better promises and similarlyÂ with the DPP in 2009.
â€œDespite that people vote for the individual, they trust that person because they come with a manifesto of a party. As it is right now, which manifesto will the PP rule with? We do not know. What the party will be guided by we do not know.
â€œThere is nothing that tells us what the PP stands for, its principle, philosophy and the direction it is going. We vote because we assume a party has a sense of direction. So there is a gap in our laws and this is something that must be addressed,â€ said Chunga.