The Malawi Electoral Commission would like to give a response and a clarification on some issues that were raised and misrepresented in the article “PP, DPP and MEC; Malawi’s dysfunctional bedfellows” by Mr Tom Likambale.
In the article Mr Likambale bundled PP, DPP and MEC as a trio that is ruining Malawi. The sin of the Commission, according to Mr Likambale, is that it made an error by allowing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate to contest in the 2014 Presidential Elections.
According to Mr Likambale since the DPP candidate is answering treason charges he could have been barred from contesting in the elections as treason is a serious offence despite everyone being presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law.
It is good that Mr Likambale acknowledges the presumption of innocence for anyone answering to a crime charge. The Commission would like to build its case from that perspective.
The Commission conducts elections based on existing legislation not on moral or rational grounds, no matter how appealing it may be.
The laws in Malawi do not stop anyone from contesting regardless of the case they are answering in court. It will be a gross violation of human rights for the Commission to decide to bar anyone from contesting on the basis of a case that has not been concluded in court.
Such a move can be challenged and be easily overturned in a court of law because it has no backing or supporting legislation at the moment. Apart from that it can also attract condemnation from the public, electoral stakeholders and the civil society organisations. This can easily undermine all the confidence that stakeholders have in the Commission that it can conduct free and fair elections.
It is very surprising and difficult for the Commission to understand the assertion by Mr Likambale that by allowing a treason suspect to contest in elections, the Commission pushed the nation to join the ranks of dubious, if not laughable democracies.
To our understanding, conducting elections within the precincts of the law is the ultimate realisation and demonstration of maturity of democracy and rule of law. Mr Likambale should know that even a bad law remains a law and has to be respected as such until it is amended, repealed by Parliament or corrected by a court precedent.
Mr Likambale should know that law is dynamic and progressive. It can be amended at any time if a particular section is seen be ineffective. If Mr Likambale feels there is need for a law barring persons who are answering serious crimes like treason from contesting, he is free to move the process through the various channels to
Even, before we have such a law in place, it has to be considered if the law can serve a better public good and promote our democracy. Would such a law not be prone to abuse whereby individuals will just be arrested on trumped up charges just to prevent them from contesting? What would be the remedy in a situation one is found not guilty but was stopped from contesting because of the treason charges?
The Commission is assuring all stakeholders that it is committed to supporting the strengthening of democracy in Malawi by conducting elections within the provisions of the law and will respect the law to the letter.
It still remains a fact that, regardless of the gravity of the case, the accused can either be found guilty or innocent. That is why some candidates who are still answering charges, even serious charges, have been allowed to contest in elections.
DIRECTOR, Media and Public Relations