The Post are reporting the Opposition has now formally written to the Speaker with notice of impeaching President Banda. What is particularly striking is that there indeed does appear, if the Mr Kabimba is stating facts, some clients among MMD parliamentarians :
The Patriotic Front (PF), United Party for National Development (UPND) and client MMD members of parliament have notified the Speaker of the National Assembly over their intention to impeach President Rupiah Banda from office. In a letter dated July 21, 2009, and addressed to Speaker Amusaa Mwanamwambwa, W.M. Kabimba and Company writing on behalf of the PF, UPND and client MMD members of parliament stated that the parliamentarians want President Banda impeached because of various breaches of the Republican Constitution from the time he acted as president.W.M. Kabimba and Company stated that the motion to Speaker Mwanamwambwa for presentation by the parliamentarians would be forwarded to him within 14 days. “RE: NOTICE OF MOTION FOR IMPEACHMENT OF THE PRESIDENT. We act for the Patriotic Front (PF), United Party for National Development and MMD members of parliament in respect of the above quoted matter. We would like to inform you that we have been instructed to peruse and advise our clients from the three named political parties the various breaches of the articles of the Republican Constitution by the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Rupiah B. Banda for presentation of the motion for impeachment to your office......These breaches cover the period August 2008 when Mr. Banda was acting as president of the Republic of Zambia following the demise of President Levy P. Mwanawasa in Paris, France todate. We shall forward the motion to your office for presentation by our clients within 14 days from the date hereof.”
The possibility of MMD MPs rallying behind the impeachment is something that I had not anticipated in earlier musings via Twitter. My view then was that the probability of a successful impeachment were no more than 30%. The reason is simple : weak incentives. In the event of an impeachment Parliament has to be dissolved with a new general election held. There's a reason why previous presidents have kept that provision - precisely because it raises the cost of reneging within the ruling party. Basically, it makes it difficult for those within the ruling party to remove a sitting President, because doing so would automatically send the whole party to a general election. No serious MMD MP wants to go and face an electoral vote with an uncertain outcome. So by ensuring that impeachment triggers general elections, the sitting President is immune from pressure from his party, thereby providing further opportunity for centralising his authority. A president who is immune from being removed because the cost is too much is guaranteed to remain in power throughout the term of his office.
Mr Kabimba's motion, has certainly given pause for thought, but has also given way to natural questions. Is there a deal between the Opposition and the MMD parliamentarians that has somehow strengthened the very weak incentives ensured by the existing constitutions? What would be the nature of that deal, that would ensure that the Opposition does not renege when, and if it assumed power, post elections?