Malawi’s former ruling DPP has declared that every Member of Parliament (MP) who won on its ticket but sits with government in the House has crossed the floor and will face the wrath of Section 65 of the Constitution.
The statement comes in the wake of a fresh petition that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has submitted to Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda.
The party is asking the Speaker to declare six more seats vacant, bringing to 51 the number of MPs deemed to have crossed the floor after joining the ruling People’s Party (PP).
Leader of DPP in Parliament Dr. George Chaponda confirmed the fresh petition, saying more will continue to be “pursued vigorously” until everyone who won on the party ticket and defected loses their seat.
“The DPP will vigorously pursue all those that ran and won on our ticket in respect to the rule of law. Those that ran and won as independents and later joined DPP are not affected by our efforts,” said Chaponda in an interview on Monday.
Though he could not immediately name the six new names, Chaponda confirmed that the party is examining all members from the 112 MPs that won on its ticket in the May 2009 general elections.
The DPP had 112 seats, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) won 28, United Democratic Front (UDF) claimed 17 seats, Aford has two, while Maravi and Mafunde won a seat each.
Independents had the second largest number of seats at 32. The majority of independents joined the then ruling DPP, swelling its figure in Parliament to 145.
After the rise of President Joyce Banda on April 7 2012 following the death of former leader Bingu wa Mutharika, PP has enticed several DPP MPs with ministerial positions and the lure of being close to power.
PP only had four MPs who moved from DPP when it was still ruling—Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, Thyolo North MP Anita Kalinde, Zomba Changalume MP Grace Maseko and Zomba Nsondole legislator Jennifer Chilunga.
But in the last meeting of Parliament, government benches were graced by 109 MPs. However, some have been returning to DPP after failing to secure substantive positions in PP and fearing the wrath of Section 65.
“Those that are coming back are being removed from the list [of those whose seats have been targeted]. We had 45 names, and then others came back so we reduced to 39, but with the fresh names, we have to increase again, but we will take into account the new ones that have returned. Those that come back will be spared,” said Chaponda.
Leader of the House Henry Phoya and Chimunthu Banda also confirmed the fresh petition from DPP in separate interviews. Both, however, declined to state the current position of previous petitions.
Phoya said his side was aware of DPP’s efforts and said the petitions were mainly individual in nature.
“We are aware of this fresh petition being served on individual MPs. They are responding or working on their responses in their capacities,” he said.
Chimunthu Banda also confirmed receiving the petition, but could not say if he has written to the new MPs in the House for their response.
The next meeting of Parliament is slated for November this year and it is expected to be a showdown between PP and DPP.
Section 65, though enjoying popular support among Malawians for strengthening democracy, has proven to be tricky to implement.
For example, DPP managed to frustrate its implementation between 2005 and 2009 after some UDF MPs who crossed the floor to DPP at the time obtained a court injunction and the matter was never concluded.