US embassy cable - 05LILONGWE364

FLOOR-CROSSING AMENDMENT ON PARLIAMENT'S AGENDA

Identifier: 05LILONGWE364
Wikileaks: View 05LILONGWE364 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2005-04-28 14:29:00
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 000364 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, MI, Parliament, Political 
SUBJECT: FLOOR-CROSSING AMENDMENT ON PARLIAMENT'S AGENDA 
 
 
1.  SUMMARY.  On April 12 the National Assembly passed a 
motion accepting the introduction of an amendment to 
Section 65 of the constitution at the next sitting of 
Parliament.  Section 65 defines what constitutes 
"crossing the floor", or switching political parties, in 
the National Assembly. The amendment would place tighter 
restrictions on inter-party movements of elected 
officials. END SUMMARY. 
 
2.  A proposed amendment to the Constitution will likely 
be brought to Parliament for a vote at its next meeting, 
scheduled for May.  The controversial legislation follows 
a dramatic party realignment of elected officials and 
would prohibit further inter-party realignments within 
Parliament.  Passage of the bill would mean that an MP 
would be required to vacate his or her seat in the 
National Assembly upon allying with a different party or 
declaring independent status; independent MPs would also 
vacate their seats upon joining any political party. 
 
3.  The motion to amend Section 65 of the Constitution 
was made by John Tembo, leader of the opposition and 
President of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and its 
acceptance is an initial step in passing the law.  At 
this point, Parliament has only agreed that the amendment 
can be brought to the floor for a vote at a future 
sitting.  Amendment of the Constitution requires a two- 
thirds majority; for this reason, passage of the 
amendment is not certain. Tembo's own MCP has only sixty 
seats in the 193-member National Assembly and the motion 
to introduce the bill passed because only a simple 
majority vote is required for motions. 
 
4.  COMMENT.  By sponsoring this amendment, Tembo is 
trying to save his party from rumored defections in the 
near future.  The main backers of the bill are MCP and 
United Democratic Front (UDF) loyalists, former 
archrivals now united under threat of losses to President 
Mutharika's new Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). 
Clearly, some opportunist MPs want to maintain the status 
quo in order to preserve their ability to declare 
political independence (or, in the case of already 
declared independents, join a political party) in the 
National Assembly without having to resign.  The 
amendment would place tight restrictions on MP's 
political realignments, and seems to be aimed 
specifically at preventing the DPP from increasing its MP 
membership. 
 
GILMOUR 

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