Political parties have started jostling for leadership of parliamentary committees which are yet to be constituted, with the opposition confident that they will get chairmanship of major committees such as Legal Affairs and Budget and Finance.
According to the new Standing Orders rule 152(1), membership of each committee has to be decided by the assembly on the recommendation of the Business Committee.
Democratic Progress Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which won 50 and 48 seats each, have been allocated five members per committee whereas United Democratic Front (UDF), which got 14 members of Parliament (MPs) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) will get one place in each committee and People’s Party (PP) which got 26 MPs will get three places.
Going by the numbers, both MCP and DPP have a chance to head all committees if they strategise well, a thing MCP chief whip Lobin Lowe said his party is prepared to do.
Said Lowe: “MCP would like to lead all committees, but just like the position of Speaker, this is a game of numbers. MCP will propose candidates with strong character and who will have the respect of all MPs [in a particular committee].”
On the other hand, PP chief whip Ralph Jooma was optimistic that with the support of five members from DPP, three from PP and one from UDF, his party would need two independent MPs to be voted chairperson of committees.
He said: “Checks and balances are essential when opposition is in majority. It would be unfortunate if DPP were to get leadership of the committees.”
UDF chief whip Ernest Yahaya is, however, not hopeful that his party will get leadership of committees because each MP will only be allowed to be in two committees.
“Because we are in minority, it will be difficult for us unless we discuss with other political parties. But as it stands, each MP has to be in one or two committees only and that is not enough for us to get votes,” Yahaya said.
Parliament is expected to announce membership of the committees before it adjourns until further notice this Friday. If that happens, then the committee members would only elect the chairperson and vice-chairperson during recess.
Party whips have submitted names of MPs of their parties for designation to committee membership after they expressed interest, according to Standing Orders 152 (2).