Malawian parties focus on Speaker's post

Lilongwe- Malawi (PANA) -- Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has convened the first sitting of the recently elected 193-member parliament, whose main task on Monday will to elect the House Speaker and two of his deputies.
In a statement issued in Lilongwe, the capital Sunday, the Clerk of Parliament Roosevelt Gondwe said Mutharika will deliver his first 'State of the Nation' address Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) and its political partners have selected former House Speaker Rodwell Munyenyembe as its candidate for the position of Speaker.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has settled for veteran legislator Louis Chimango to challenge the former Speaker.
UDF spokesman Ken Lipenga confirmed Sunday that his party would nominate Munyenyembe because "he is a tried and tested candidate, who has experience and, in our opinion, is universally respected".
According to him, the Speaker of the National Assembly being "such an important position" it needs a man with the potential to win respect of the majority of the members in the House.
"You cannot just give that position to any Jim and Jack who comes along," said Lipenga.
"We believe Hon.
Munyenyembe would be able to instil discipline and regulate proceedings in a manner that will retain the dignity of the House and win public confidence.
" Munyenyembe became Speaker of the first Malawi multiparty parliament soon after winning a parliamentary seat during the first multiparty elections in 1994 on the ticket of the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AFORD).
However, he withdrew from AFORD and turned into an independent towards the end his term in 1999.
He later crossed to the ruling UDF to contest that year's election, which he lost to an AFORD candidate.
Former President Bakili Muluzi retained him in his cabinet as Defence minister.
During the 20 May 2004 election, Munyenyembe reclaimed his parliamentary seat for the northern Chitipa constituency.
Meanwhile, opposition MCP's spokesman Bintony Kuntsaira has said all opposition parties will support the candidature of Chimango, a veteran legislator who held several ministerial portfolios, including that of finance, during the MCP 30-year regime.
"We believe Hon.
Chimango is mature and can help instil descipline in Parliament," he said.
The election of the House Speaker was deferred during the swearing-in ceremony of MPs two weeks ago under instructions from the Office of the President and Cabinet.
The office said the election should deferred because the President has not yet called for a sitting of Parliament as provided for in the constitution.
However, analysts said the ruling UDF was trying to buy time to boost the number of MPs in the House by trying to convince independent MPs and negotiating coalitions with other parties to ensure that its candidate wins the post of Speaker.
Since then, several independent MPs and the opposition Republican Party, which has 16 MPs, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that has eight MPs and the Movement for Genuine Democratic Change (MGODE) with three MPs have closed ranks with the UDF.
Although theoretically the ruling coalition has a higher number of MPs in the House, Munyenyembe's victory is not a fore-gone conclusion because certain independent MPs and MPs in the ruling coalition have indicated they will not vote for him.

27 Junho 2004 12:30:00




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