US embassy cable - 04LILONGWE468

OPPOSITION SET TO TAKE PARLIAMENT'S LEADERSHIP

Identifier: 04LILONGWE468
Wikileaks: View 04LILONGWE468 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2004-06-02 07:58:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV KDEM MI Political Parliament
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000468 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI, Political, Parliament 
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION SET TO TAKE PARLIAMENT'S LEADERSHIP 
 
REF: A. LILONGWE 450 
 
     B. LILONGWE 449 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
1. (SBU) As Parliament prepares for the June 7 swearing-in of 
new members and selection of leadership, opposition political 
parties have pledged to work together to take control of the 
House.  Meanwhile, the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) 
is trying to gain the support of independents MPs, most of 
whom were once members of the UDF.  Establishing and 
maintaining a working majority will likely dominate 
parliamentary politics over the coming year.  END SUMMARY. 
 
COMPOSITION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 
------------------------------------ 
2. (U) Revised election tallies and wrangles over disputed 
results in some parliamentary districts leave the current 
breakdown of political parties in Parliament as follows: 
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) - 56; United Democratic Front 
(UDF) - 49; Republican Party - 15; National Democratic 
Alliance (NDA) - 8; Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) 6; 
People's Progressive Movement (PPM) - 6; Movement for Genuine 
Democratic Change (MGODE) - 3; Congress for National Unity 
(CONU) - 1; and People's Transformation Party (PETRA) - 1. 
39 independents also won seats.  For the 193 member house, 
the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has not yet announced 
results for 3 constituencies and will hold by-elections in 6 
constituencies in which elections were not held. 
 
3. (U) By-elections will also be held in President Bingu wa 
Mutharika and Vice President Cassim Chilumpha's 
constituencies, as the Constitution bars the President and 
First and Second Vice Presidents from holding seats in the 
National Assembly.  (NOTE: Until by-elections are conducted, 
the UDF will only have 47 MPs, which reduces its ability to 
influence the initial selection of Parliament's leadership. 
It is expected that the UDF will win the by-elections in both 
the President and Vice President's constituencies.) 
 
ALLIANCE BUILDING 
----------------- 
4. (SBU) To bolster its numbers, the ruling UDF has actively 
been pursuing independents and opposition MPs to join its 
ranks, or to enter informal voting alliances.  UDF chairman 
Bakili Muluzi, who vowed that independents would not be 
welcomed back into the party, has reversed himself and called 
for independents to return to the UDF.  The UDF leadership 
claims to have support from several of them, many of whom 
originally wished to stand on the UDF ticket but were not 
supported by the UDF leadership.  CONU MP Richard Mwaila has 
also announced he will support the UDF. 
 
5. (SBU) A May 25 press release issued by the MCP, NDA, and 
Mgwirizano Coalition (comprising RP, PPM, MGODE, and PETRA) 
stated that the parties have agreed to work together "to 
effectively provide a vibrant opposition in Parliament and 
ensure that there are checks and balances in all operations 
of government."  If successful in joining together, the 
opposition coalition would have support from 89 MPs, 8 shy of 
a simple majority in the House (before independents are 
counted).  MCP MP Louis Chimango has been tipped as Speaker 
of Parliament, with the First and Second Duty Speakerships 
going to the RP and NDA, respectively.  The statement, 
however, explicitly stated that "each party will work 
independently outside Parliament" and that the agreement to 
work together does not negate RP President Gwanda Chakuamba's 
legal challenge of the elections (reftel B).  (NOTE: An MCP 
spokesperson announced on May 20 that MCP will support 
Chakuamba's case by providing legal support and evidence. 
END NOTE.) 
 
PARLIAMENT TO CONVENE, SELECT LEADERS 
------------------------------------- 
6. (U) The Clerk of Parliament announced on May 31 that 
Parliament will hold a swearing-in of new members and 
selection of leadership on June 7.  Among the positions to be 
determined are Speaker, First and Second Deputy Speakers, and 
committee chairs.  The two-day session will also include a 
basic orientation to Parliament. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
7. (SBU) Independents will be the key players in Parliament, 
and they are currently being wooed by both sides.  At 
present, it is difficult to determine how many will support 
the ruling party and how many will join the opposition 
alliance.  The almost equal division between the two sides 
will also make the forthcoming by-elections very contentious 
competitions, which could ultimately determine who has 
control of Parliament.  In any case, maintenance of alliances 
will remain a constant challenge for leadership on both sides 
of the house. 
 
8. COMMENT CONTINUED.  In the past, opposition has seen its 
primary role as that of thwarting government initiatives 
rather than offering alternate programs and policies.  If the 
opposition does successfully take control of the House's 
leadership, it will have to break from this mind-set in order 
to work constructively.  END COMMENT. 
DOUGHERTY 

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