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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04LILONGWE1126
2004-12-10 07:50:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

MALAWI'S PARLIAMENT SEEKS BIGGER ROLE

Tags:   ECON  EINV  PGOV  KMCA  KDEM  MI  POL 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 001126 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/S A. GALANEK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV PGOV KMCA KDEM MI POL
SUBJECT: MALAWI'S PARLIAMENT SEEKS BIGGER ROLE


-------
SUMMARY
-------



1. (U) Malawi's Parliament appears to be in the process of
defining a new, more active role for itself in economic
policy. Leading members of several relevant committees have
told us they intend to hold public hearings on policy
direction, to gain earlier access to draft legislation, and
to head efforts to improve Government's execution of
institutional reforms. A better qualified crop of MPs,
together with the absence of a ruling majority and a
Government focus on reform, add up to an opportunity for more
participatory legislature. End summary.




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REACHING BEYOND MERE OVERSIGHT


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Embassy recently held a series of conversations with
leading members of the Parliamentary committees that have a
role in economic and fiscal policy oversight: Public
Accounts, Commerce and Industry, and Budget and Finance.
While these committees have traditionally played purely an
oversight role, the members were all quick to describe a more
ambitious program for active participation in policy making.
We have seen these committees in several policy-forming
forums where they had not previously been engaged, which
lends credence to their ambitions.




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A REFORMIST RULING-PARTY VIEW


--------------------------





3. (SBU) Maxwell Milazi, a freshman MP in the (nominally)
governing United Democratic Front (UDF) and vice chair of the
Commerce and Industry Committee, defined the first priority
of the committee as oversight. Asked about the future of the
committee, he said he saw it moving toward determining
economic policy jointly with Government. His committee has
plans to begin regular public hearings on a range of policy
issues, from dumping to banking regulation. It also plans to
request draft budgets far enough in advance to formulate
substantive input before the draft is formally presented to
Parliament.



4. (U) Milazi himself represents a reformist current in the
UDF. Having been bypassed as the party choice for his
district, Milazi ran as an independent, on the understanding
that he would change back to UDF if he won. After winning a
bicycle-driven campaign against a well-connected incumbent
with a party car, he has rejoined UDF but obviously owes less
to the old guard than did his predecessor.




--------------------------


THE MORE SEASONED LOYAL OPPOSITION


--------------------------





5. (SBU) Respicious Dzanjalimodzi, a freshman MP, chairman of

the Public Accounts Committee and highly placed member of the
opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), described the new
Parliament as having unique technical expertise. He is
himself a good example, as a former Secretary of the Treasury
and 25-year civil servant. Believing that UDF leadership has
ruined the country's fiscal management systems, he sees his
committee's role as providing firm leadership in restoring
the system to soundness. His committee, which has an audit
oversight role, is going back as far as the 1997 budget year
to uncover systemic accountability problems (and, no doubt,
UDF-guided misappropriations).



6. (SBU) Louis Chimango, a senior MCP member, former minister
of finance, and creator of the Budget and Finance Committee,
is a bit less ambitious than his younger colleagues. He was
more openly critical of Government and placed less hope in a
new role for Parliament than in the political power of the
opposition. Even so, he said the committee has perhaps too
timid a charter and intends to engage on a political level
rather than technical. Being an old hand in Parliament, he
felt the new crop of Parliamentarians would need a couple
years' seasoning before they could effectively shape policy.




--------------------------


COMMENT: SEVERAL REASONS FOR A NEW ACTIVISM


--------------------------





7. (SBU) These MPs' descriptions of a more activist
Parliament make sense for several reasons. As Dzanjalimodzi
intimated, and as nearly everyone here observes, this
freshman crop has a much better background, educationally and
professionally, than previous Assemblies. Part of the reason
is the UDF's loss of popularity as elections approached.
With opposition parties having a real crack at power, their
most seasoned politicos ran for office on the possibility of
getting cabinet positions. As it happens, they lost, and
Parliament gets the benefit of an unusually experienced,
educated, and ambitious collection of people.



8. (SBU) As well, the absence of a clear majority in
Parliament, and the loss of party discipline within the UDF
itself, has created a new political chemistry. Independent
initiative, and the possibility of an independently minded
Parliament, have left room for leadership that is not closely
aligned either with the Government or a unified opposition.
And now, the density of potential leaders is particularly
high.


9. (SBU) Finally, the leadership of the President Mutharika
is influencing Parliamentary dynamics. He has identified his
presidency with a clear issues-oriented agenda and pushed
away the old guard of his own UDF party with his
anti-corruption campaign. This has left many MPs without the
traditional ready-made alignments. As they puzzle this out,
the possibility of making their mark within the Parliamentary
institution looks more and more promising.

GILMOUR