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Malawi road to 2019: Mesn calls for political consensus on electoral law reforms


LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)- The Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) has asked the countrys leadership to soberly and swiftly work on the proposed electoral law reforms ahead of 2019  arguing that the process was running out of time.

Mesn observed that delaying in prioritizing electoral law reforms will negatively affect preparation of the forthcoming elections predicting that the elections will be worse than those of 2014 tripartite elections.

The electoral body was reacting to exclusion of electoral bills in the current seating of Parliament under away in the capital Lilongwe.

Leader of the house George Chaponda told the nation on Monday that government is not tabling any legislation on poll reforms.

Chaponda further disclosed the Cabinet nodded 12 new bills including land related bills, the amendment of Political Parties Registration Bill and Money Laundering Act among others.

But in an exclusive interview with The Maravi Post on Tuesday, Mesn Chairperson, Steve Duwa said was not surprised noting that electoral bills were not part of the business in the current national assembly proceedings.

Duwa said there are pertinent issues needed to be looked into before the bills are tabled in the August House arguing that public consultations have not yet done.

He however pointed out that time was running out on the reforms if the process was targeting 2019 tripartite elections.

Duwa therefore calls for political consensus on key issues in the reforms that the process outcomes will tabulate credible elections results in the future.

“Mesn isnt surprised with electoral bills exclusion in the current Parliament session for the simple reason that the Electoral law reform process is still at the Law Commission stage. And they are yet to start public consultations before coming up with a report or the proposed bills for submission to the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs.

“Thereafter the proposed bills will be submitted to cabinet and then Parliament. We do not think there are shortcuts to this process and arrangement at this point in time. Furthermore MESN expects that once the Law commission has done its part and as a nation we need to prioritize these reforms in terms of what can practically and realistically be done in the short, medium and long term and I don’t see that easily achieved.

“We should also not forget that the ministry of justice follows it’s own legislative calendar and it matters at what time before 2019 the said proposed electoral bills are accommodated in the legislative calendar However, if the proposed electoral law reforms are targeting 2019 elections then time not on our side but it’s important to do justice to the process and not rushing things”, said Duwa.

Prior to the current Parliament seating, the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) demanded government to bring to the house all relevant electoral reforms bills and that failure to do so the party threatened to call for civil disobedience.

Some of the key reforms MCP wants discussed are the merit of shifting to 50-plus-one system from the current first-past-the-post and the amendment of electoral laws.

In the electoral reform recommendations, stakeholders, among others, proposed the amendment of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act to be integrated into a single Election Act.

The stakeholders also suggested financing of political campaigns be legislated to ensure transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, the reforms propose a law to allow better management of the transition from polling day to the inauguration of the President and Vice-President to ensure sufficient time for a petition to be resolved prior to inauguration.

The stakeholders also called for amendment of Section 77 of the Constitution to establish the age of voter eligibility to be 18 years of age or older, on the day of the election and on polling as well as Section 67(1) of the Constitution for general elections to be conducted in September rather than May.

Other electoral law reforms include empowering MEC to issue subsidiary legislation: in line with international best practice, the MEC should be empowered to issue Regulations on its key areas of competence and the election process under the Electoral Commission Act.

Therefore, recommendations were to establish a specific offence for vote buying (whether by handouts or other means) should be included in the election laws, as well as the Corrupt Practices Act to deter vote buying and staggered announcement of results as follows; seven days for the President, 14 days for National Assembly and 21 days for local councils.

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