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Road to 2019 Elections: opposition demands election bill, Gov.t pushes to November sitting

Malawi parliament

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Government on Tuesday, gave a cold shoulder to opposition parties in Parliament after it announced that the much-awaited elections bill will be tabled in the November sitting, not the current budget session.

The House nearly degenerated into chaos when members from both sides, failed to amicably conclude debate on question Lilongwe North East legislator, Maxwell Thyolera, wanted Justice Minister and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, to respond on the bill.

Minister Tembenu response whose response was that the bill will not be tabled in the current sitting, but the November session, was not welcomed news to the opposition bench.

Tembenu justified the decision, said the Special Law Commission on the bill, was posted to his office late on April 20, this year. He also cited the tight schedule of the Commission.

“The report has just been presented to my ministry, and it has to go to Cabinet. We have to understand that all laws are for Malawians, and I have no power to frustrate any of them. The Bill will be tabled during the November meeting, not now,” Tembenu said.

But the opposition argued that it was a deliberate Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) move, to frustrate the effort made in the report from the Commission, which outlines various recommendations ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Thyolera accused the minister of changing his mind, after he had earlier opposed a Private Member’s Bill on Elections, on the basis that Government would be bringing bills to the House on the matter, by June this year, but the case is now different.

“Taking into account that the Electoral Commission,  expressed fears that preparations would be affected, if there is a delay in the legislative reforms, I want assurance that the Bill will be tabled as soon as possible,” Thyolera said.

Supposing the Bill is tabled in November, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), will not have enough time to prepare itself administratively, for the changes on the electoral processes, that might occur when the Bills are passed.

Last month, the Special Law Commission on the review of Electoral Law, made drastic changes in the way general elections will be handled in the future, with a new recommendation that the country should adopt the 50+1 system for electing the head of state and government.

The legal electoral clause, will provide that for a person to be declared a winner in presidential elections, he or she must acquire 50+1 percent of the total votes casted.

In its final report, the Commission found that the election of the president through the present first-past-the post mode, has challenges regarding the legitimacy of a winning president, where the winner gets less than 50% of the total votes cast.

This proposal aims at amending Section 96 (5) of Parliamentary and Presidential Elections that stipulates any candidate who has obtained a majority vote, shall be declared as a winner.

The Commission Chairperson Anthony Kamanga, who recently presented the report to the media, also proposed that there should be maximum education qualification for person seeking elective office. The current law does not provide such a yardstick, but only requires a presidential candidate speaks and reads English, and is aged 35 tears.

The report recommends that presidential candidates and their running mates, should possess minimum of a first degree or its equivalent from recognized or accredited institutions.

Therefore, the Commission has set for a person to compete in Parliamentary and local councils elections, must be the holders of a Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), and able to read and speak English.

The report further proposed special Parliamentary seats for women in each district in the country, to ensure that they occupy a certain minimum number of seats in the national assembly.

Additionally the Special Commission, made the startling recommendation on that the swearing-in of the president-elect, and vice president-elect be conducted after 30 days the election date, not within 30 days, which is currently provided in the election law. This would provide for a proper transition period with the predecessors.

The Commission furthermore, consolidated and harmonized all electoral laws to ensure that they speak to each other, with the introduction of six bills including the Constitution (Amendment), Electoral Commission (Amendment), Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections, Elections Management Fund, and the Assumption of the Office of President of Referendum.

Electoral stakeholders are yet to react to the Commission’s recommendations, after they waited many years for them; whose aim is to provide a climate for fair and credible election results.

 

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