In Malawi, the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP) is calling on the speaker of the national assembly and his deputy to resign. This comes after a recent court ruling gave the speaker the mandate to declare vacant seats of parliamentarians who have crossed over to join other political parties. The DPP contends that the speaker and his deputy have both joined other parties since becoming parliamentarians. Meanwhile, opposition parties have accused the government of deliberately “poaching” their members in parliament.
Henry Phoya is Malawi’s minister for justice and the DPP’s director of legal affairs. From the capital Lilongwe, he tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey more about the DPP’s call for the speaker and his deputy to resign.
“That particular development follows a ruling, which was delivered by the Supreme Court of Appeal here in Malawi on Friday the 15th of June. The president had referred a matter concerning a provision of the constitution for a determination by the court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court informed the nation that a provision of the constitution, which has been invalidated in 2003, should be revalidated, and should be the valued provision we should be using on matters concerning the issue of crossing the floor in the house in parliament,” Phoya noted.
He said the speaker finds himself in a conflict of interest position ’s since he would be affected if the Supreme Court ruling were enforced.
“Our interpretation of that position shows that the speaker himself, the incumbent speaker would be caught by that provision, if we are to go ahead and use that provision as a now valid crossing the floor provision in our country,” he said.
Phoya said the DPP wanted to make public some of the challenges the Supreme Court’s ruling would bring about.
“The point we wanted to bring to the attention of the nation is that this provision, which has been revalidated brings some absurd consequences. That’s the point we wanted to bring to light,” Phoya pointed out.
He denied that only the ruling party would be affected if the Supreme Court’s ruling were to be enforced.
“Not at all because you may wish to know that if this ruling is enforced in parliament, it will not just be on the government side which would be affected. Even the opposition benches would have to bare the brunt of such a decision,” he said.
Phoya said opposition parties hold the majority seats in parliament.
“If you are talking about the question of numbers, even as we speak now, the opposition hold an urge over the government in terms of numbers. They are in the majority. So there would be nothing new if that were to happen in the house,” Phoya said.
He said the ruling DPP party wants a resolution to be found as the opposition accuses the government of “poaching” its parliamentarians.
“The DPP’s reaction to that has always been that the solution to that lies in the political arena rather than in the legal arena, that has always been our position. There are reasons why the president had to come out of his original party. And there are also reasons why a number of people followed him from that original party. These reasons are political. So we’ve always said let’s sit down at a political round table and sort out this problem,” he said.
Phoya said the opposition parties were not genuine in their attempt to resolve the political impasse with President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
“I think there is another side to that particular coin. Those of us on the side of the president are of the view that whatever attempts has been made by our friends on the other side have not been done in good faith,” Phoya said.
He said the ruling DPP is the party of the future.
“As a matter of fact, I think the future will brighten after the 2009 election because its quite clear that the party would come out stronger after those elections. It would scoop the majority of seats in the country. So the future of DPP is indeed very bright,” he noted.