US embassy cable - 05LILONGWE299

PARLIAMENT FLEXES ITS MUSCLES

Identifier: 05LILONGWE299
Wikileaks: View 05LILONGWE299 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2005-04-05 12:29:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV KDEM MI Parliament Political
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 LILONGWE 000299 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI, Parliament, Political 
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT FLEXES ITS MUSCLES 
 
1.  SUMMARY.  The third session of the Malawi National 
Assembly since the May 2004 elections opened at the New 
State House in Lilongwe on March 30. In the opening 
session, Parliament rejected the President's nominee for 
Inspector General of Police.  Party alliances were not 
clearly spelled out, and Parliament remains without a 
permanent venue. END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  The third session of the National Assembly since the 
May 2004 elections opened in Lilongwe on March 30.  The 
sitting will run until Friday April 8, and will cover 
several items, including an amendment to the 
Constitution, food security, and a mid-term report on 
budgetary performance. 
 
3.  The first order of business was debate of the 
confirmation of the Inspector General of Police, Mrs. 
Mary Nangwale, who was ultimately rejected.  This is the 
first time Malawi's Parliament has rejected a President's 
choice for head of the Police; however, it also marks the 
first time Parliament has ever had the opportunity to do 
so.  The Nangwale vote was not necessarily divided along 
party lines, and in the debate the issue of gender 
(Nangwale is Malawi's first female Inspector General) 
proved equally significant to politics.  During a roll 
call vote 88 MPs voted against her confirmation, 83 MPs 
voted for her confirmation and eight MPs abstained. 
 
4.  With the president's departure from the United 
Democratic Front (UDF), the government no longer commands 
a majority in Parliament. Therefore, the Speaker 
instructed that political parties with some of their 
members in cabinet would sit on his right hand side, 
where a ruling party usually sits.  This effectively 
neutralized any potential wrangling over seating 
arrangements, traditionally a representation of party 
alliance in the Malawian Parliament. 
 
5.  Parliament is meeting temporarily in the New State 
House, which President Mutharika occupied as his official 
residence in December.  At that time the president 
informed Parliament that it must find a new permanent 
home.  The Speaker announced that funding for a new 
building has been secured, although no completion date 
has been set.  The Speaker also announced our Public 
Affairs Section's offer of free Internet access and use 
of the Information Resource Center (IRC).  The 
announcement received a very positive response from MPs, 
who do not have computers or Internet access. 
 
6.  COMMENT.  Party alliances remain yet unclear, and 
Parliament's failure to confirm Nangwale (who had 
recently faced widespread criticism and was of 
questionable political neutrality) is not necessarily 
emblematic of things to come.  Rather, what is most 
significant is that Parliament was able to assert itself 
and did not simply bow to the executive branch, as it had 
in the past.  Parliament is demanding respect for the 
country's constitution, which is a healthy sign for 
democracy in Malawi. END COMMENT. 
 
GILMOUR 

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