LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Government lawmakers in the ongoing Parliamentary 2016 budget review meeting under way in the capital Lilongwe on Thursday vehemently opposed amendments to the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) arguing that thorough consultations have not been conducted on the bill.
The government legislators went further advising opposition Member of Parliament (MPs) to leave the whole process of reviewing the law to the Malawi Law Commission (MLC) in consultation with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) alongside its stakeholders.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Lilongwe South constituency, Peter Dimba moved the motion as a private member bill which seeks to change counting and management of elections results.
After the bill was introduced in the house, on several attempts, government MPs called for a roll call vote (division) to stop the mover of the bill (Lawmaker Dimba) for making a second reading which summaries the contents of the bill prior for debate.
Eventually, a motion to extend time beyond 17:00 hours to allow continuation of the debate thwarted government attempts to have the bill dismissed at second reading before it could possibly referred to a legal committee with expectation to bring the bill next week Thursday.
Government Chief Whip Henry Mussa observed that electoral reforms were an issue of national importance and could not be passed without consulting a large number of Malawians.
Justice and Constitution Affairs Minister Samuel Tembenu therefore asked for patience on the electoral reforms process which he said would be completed on March 31, 2017.
But Peoples Party (PP)’s Nkhata Bay Central MP Ralph Mhone expressed worrisome over some members that do not believe the house has powers to introduce and amend laws when Section 8 of the constitution mandates Parliament with the duty of enacting laws.
Mhone reminded those against the bill of what transpired during the 2014 tripartite elections which were marred with irregularities arguing that the current bill amendments are simply aimed at addressing such challenges.
The bill introduces a new section, Section 93 (2) that stipulates that “all recordings in relation to the number of votes, just voters and ballot papers shall be recorded in both Arabic numerals and words” to deter alterations of results at the district tally centre where results from constituencies are tallied.
The bill seeks also to establish constituency tally centres by deleting the word “polling station” from Section 94 and 95 of PPEA and substituting them with “constituency tally centres”.
The law proposes provision for smooth transition after elections that swearing in of the winning President should be done after 21 days of announcing results.