Constitution Experts agree on the proposal stopping MPs causing by-election

PFcandidate for Mpongwe

File: Gabriel Namulambe recently resigned from MMD to join PFcausing a by-election in Mpongwe. He retained the seat on PF ticket after he was adopted to re-contest 

A parliamentarian yesterday laboured to convince experts and professionals on constitutional matters to consider a clause in the constitution that would bar Members of Parliament who cause unnecessary by- elections by resigning to join another political party.
Lubansenshi Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Mucheleka pleaded with delegates attending the sector groups convention in Lusaka to add a clause that will stop defecting MPs from contesting by – elections and further bar them from being appointed into civil service as a way of
reducing on unnecessary by- elections.

The Law maker who is also part of the professionals and experts tasked to closely look at the representations of the people sector at the ongoing sector groups’ convention said some MPs are induced to defect from their political parties  in order to take up positions in the civil service thereby causing by – elections.

He noted that by elections cost the country a lot of money which could be used on other developmental programmes but further noted that some
by – elections such as those that arise due to death are unavoidable.

And Chairperson of the group Francis Chigunta noted that the constitution provides for the holding of a by- election and that no article in the current constitution bars members who cause such  from being appointed which he said could be stopped if an article or a clause is added to the existing articles to ensure that such MPs are pinned down.
Contributing to the debate Southern African Centre for Conflict Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) Information Officer Obby Chibuluma observed that some MPs feel they are not accountable to the public because they have no job descriptions which would be used to pin them down when they go wrong hence the need to enact a law to regulate their privileges.

Mr. Chibuluma said the need to ensure that MPs stop crossing the floor should be looked into seriously adding that the trend can only be
stopped if there is a legal provision in place to stop them from defecting anyhow.

However, after a long debate, the convention unanimously agreed to the proposal but did not decide whether it will be a stand alone or as a
clause in an already existing article.
Earlier, the group facilitator Kasuka Mutukwa who is also an expert in governance issues observed that the country’s electoral system is very
weak to offer a free and fair election.

Dr. Mutukwa said there is need to strengthen the electoral system if the marginalized groups such as the disabled and women are to participate fully in an election. He noted that the current electoral system only favours the politically strong and can be easily manipulated by the party in power because of the way commissioners are appointed and the funding system.

Meanwhile, contributing on the same topic, UPND Secretary General Winstone Chibwe said there is need to find a better system of appointing  commissioners to serve at the Electoral Commision of Zambia. He objected to the current system where the republican president is the appointing authority.

Both Mr. Chibwe and Mr. Mucheleka noted that it is possible for commissioners to favour the appointing authority in order to protect their jobs hence the need to change the system. He said people have no confidence in the country’s electoral system which could be proved by the number of electoral petitions in the past elections.

He cited the 2006 elections as the worst elections ECZ has ever conducted where 65 parliamentary seats were petitioned while in 2001 41 parliamentary seats and 3 petitions in the Presidential elections were filed.

Commenting on the declining number of women participating in elections, Mr. Chibwe said political parties field best candidates who
could win a parliamentary seat regardless of their sex.

He said women are given the opportunity to contest elections but that they fail to win which leaves political parties with no option but to pick
candidates who have the capacity to retain or scoop a parliamentary seat.

Mr Chibwe said his party like others have been giving women, youths and the disabled persons chance to participates in elections but that it will not be forced to field a candidate based on their gender.