Constitutionalism and shameless hypocrisy
Having suffered the consequences of one party dictatorship for over three decades, Malawians decided to fight for the introduction of multiparty democracy. Their wish was granted in 1993 when a referendum was held and the majority of the citizens voted for political pluralism.
The human rights abuses of the one party regime prompted Malawians to demand that in the new Constitution, there should be a provision which ensures that every five years members of parliament will stick to the parties on whose tickets they stood during general elections.
The rationale behind such provision was that at all times there should be a governing party and others in the opposition. Malawians wanted Section 65 included because they did not want to wake up one day and discover that their legislators have defected to one single party, effectively making Parliament dominated by that party.
In the early days of multiparty democracy, all MPs who crossed the floor had their seats declared vacant. Those who wished to continue as MPs after changing parties were forced to seek fresh mandate from the electorate.
Section 65 of the Constitution, in a way, exists to ensure that the existence of opposition political parties is institutionalised. That is very important because they serve as an alternative to the ruling parties by offering alternative policies both in and outside Parliament.
We appreciate the concerns that Section 65 contradicts the Constitutional provision on freedom of association. Much as such concerns can be seen as genuine, it should be noted that regular elections which take place every five years to directly address that matter. MPs can change parties during elections every five years instead of doing that on daily basis.
We say so because any political system devoid of a strong opposition cannot qualify as a vibrant democracy. Section 65 ensures that those belonging to a particular party should remain in that political grouping and exercise their freedom of choice during election period when can associate with new parties. After all it is possible to support government or opposition policies while one is in their respective parties.
It is sad that despite its importance, Section 65 continues to find itself on trial. Strangely some people who hate this constitutional provision are the ones who in time of their personal and political want stand on mountain tops and cry for the need to follow Constitutionalism.
Where are the people who were advocating for the need to respect Constitutionalism recently? Why are they mum when Section 65 is being hit with injunctions when it is clear that some MPs have crossed the floor? When will MPs and Malawians respect the entire Constitution instead of making noise on the need to respect Constitutionalism when only one provision is about to be violated and remain dead-silent when another equally important provision is being violated?
We have an obligation as a nation to respect the Constitution instead of being hypocrites.