n Malawi Law Journal - Section 65 of the Malawian Constitution : the role of the Speaker, 2005-2009




This article reflects on the experience of the implementation of section 65 of the Malawian Constitution in the period between 2005 and 2009, focusing especially on the role of the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly. After briefly tracing the history of the office, it explores the justification for anti-floor-crossing law, and then proceeds to discuss the actual contestations concerning the application of this law during the period in question. The latter will entail an examination of who the disputants were and the political or constitutional interests they sought to advance and protect. Disputes around section 65, as this period amply demonstrated, provide a source of uncertainty, instability and political tension in the country, with a consequential negative impact not only on the functioning of the legislature but also on the economy. It is argued that as long as section 65 issues remain unresolved, history will repeat itself. For this law to be respected and implemented in an impartial and open manner, it is essential that the National Assembly is guaranteed its autonomy. This includes autonomy over its sessions, and hence removing or limiting the presidential prerogative to prologue Parliament, and the autonomy of the office of the Speaker. Where the government has an interest in a matter before the Speaker or the courts to which the Speaker is a party, it is not possible, as happened in this case, for the Attorney General to act for the Speaker effectively and in an impartial manner. Lastly, this article discusses the mediation effort that was attempted to resolve the impasse around section 65 and draws some lessons from it for the future.


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