UDF wants president to control deputy

Published December 31st 2004 in The Nation

The ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) wants the president to have constitutional powers to remove his vice, arguing that he is the one who appoints the running mate during elections.

UDF is also proposing that the controversial Section 65 of the Constitution, which governs crossing of the floor of Members of Parliament, should be revisited, saying its current form— which gives MPs freedom to declare themselves independent— compromises the interests of the electorate.

UDF deputy secretary general Paul Maulidi said in an interview on Monday at the start of a two-day constitutional review conference for political parties in Mangochi that it does not make sense for a presidential candidate to appoint his running mate but once in government have no say over his vice.

“What we are saying is that what powers does the president have on his vice, if the president is not satisfied with his vice what happens,” he said.
Maulidi said the Constitution has to give the president powers to enable him check on his vice so that his office is not undermined.

“Another issue we would want to be looked at is Section 65. We think as it is whereby MPs can freely declare themselves independent after being sponsored by a particular political party is a violation of the rights of the electorate who elected them,” he said.

Maulidi also said UDF wants the Constitution to say something on whether an electoral commissioner or a councillor could be dismissed after a conviction of a crime while already in office.

”There is nothing that is said about that,” he added.

Among its proposals, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) wants the Constitution to guarantee independence of the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec).

The party suggests that announcement of election results should be done 48 hours after closure of polls while a president should be inaugurated 30 days later.

The party also wants the elections period to be moved to September to avoid the inconvenience caused by wet weather.

In an interview MCP second vice president Nicholas Dausi said the party has also suggested that Mec should do away with using District Commissioners as returning officers, saying history has shown that these returning officers tend to support the party in government.

“These DCs are civil servants and to avoid compromising their positions the returning officers should appointed after the positions have been advertised and they undergo interviews under a separate body known as the Electoral Service Commission,” said Dausi.

He also said the Electoral Service Commission should be responsible for the appointments of commissioners as well as the chair of electoral commission through direct interviews and on merit not based on their political affiliations.

MCP has also proposed that former presidents should not participate in active politics.

Alliance for Democracy (Aford) in its proposals recommends that the electoral system has to be changed from the first-past the post or the winner-takes-it-all system to proportional representation which the party described as cheap, adding that it would provide a true reflection of the election results.

The party says that proportional representation would also make it easy for Malawi to achieve the 30 per cent women representation in the National Assembly.

In its proposals Movement for Genuine Democratic Change (Mgode) said the recall provision for MPs and the senate have to be brought back into the Constitution.

On the electoral system the party proposes that elections results should be announced after four days while the president-elect should be sworn into office after two months.

“It took the incumbent more than one month to appoint a cabinet. We believe he could have done a better job if he had been given more time,” Mgode said in its paper.

Law Society of Malawi President Charles Mhango, who is facilitating the conference, asked political parties to look at the constitutional review with a sober mind and avoid personalising issues as was the case in the previous review of 1992 and 1993 when some of the issues were aimed at penalising individuals.

“We should see to it that posterity in five or ten years time, and regardless of who will be in government then, should judge us to have done a good job for the good of the nation,” said Mhango.

Apart from UDF, MCP, Aford and Mgode the constitutional review conference has also drawn participants from People Transformation Party (Petra) and People’s Progressive Movement (PPM).

The conference has been organised by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy through the Malawian Centre for Multiparty Development, an inter-party grouping of all political parties in the country.