LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) led by their Leader Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, on Tuesday agreed to end the boycott of the parliamentary proceedings, after government promised to table the Electoral Reforms Bill that among other things calls for the 50+1 election win of the state president.

Chakwera, who is the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader in Parliament, on Monday afternoon walked out of the House in protest against the missing Electoral Reforms Bill on the day’s Order Paper as was promised by government.

Chakwera accused government of lacking seriousness by neglecting the promises it made on the inclusion of the Electoral Reforms Bills on the Order Paper— an outline document of the day’s business in the National Assembly.

“Until the Electoral Reforms Bills appears on the Order Paper, we [MCP] will not come back to the House. This is not right and time is running out,” said Chakwera.

But Leader of the House on the government side, Kondwani Nankhumwa, informed the Business Committee, which comprises leaders of the parties represented in Parliament and is chaired by the Speaker, that government will start tabling the bills.

The opposition, civil society, and Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a grouping of religious organisations, are pushing government of President Peter Mutharika on the enactment of the Electoral Reforms Bills, including the provision of the 50+1 proposal of electing the President to replace the much-maligned First-Past-the-Post provision.

The Law Commission recommended the following Bills collectively called Electoral Reforms Bills: Constitution (Amendment), Electoral Commission (Amendment), Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) and Local Government Elections Act, Assumption of the Office of President (Transitional Arrangement) and Referendum.

The most contentious of the Bills relate to the amendment of Section
80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the PPE Act to provide for a change of the electoral system from a simple majority to a majority of more than 50 percent in the presidential race.

The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill as proposed by the Special Law Commission recommended the enactment of the Elections Management Fund to ensure that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), is financially autonomous.

The amendment also proposes that changes in the appointment of the MEC chairperson and composition of the commissioners.

The Referendum Bill, on the other hand, aims to introduce legislation on how to conduct a referendum since one does not currently exist.

The Assumption of the Office of President (Transitional Arrangement) proposes an amendment to the Constitution to allow that swearing in of the President and Vice-President to be performed after 30 days, and not within the 30 days as prescribed in Section 81 (3) of the Constitution.

The amendments are crucial for sustainable democratic change and pressure is still mounting from religious groupings that the bill be passed into law ahead of the 2019 elections.