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MPs endorse election date

Kondwani Nankhumwa

Yeremia Chihana

Malawians could finally be heading to the fresh presidential election on June 23 2020 after Parliament adopted a Private Members’ Motion which has set the date for the court-ordered poll.

The motion was brought into the august House by Member of Parliament (MP) for Mzimba North, Yeremia Chihana, amid heavy resistance from the government side which protested that it was not proper for the lawmaker to come up with a motion which did not appear on the Order Paper.

Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa has since described the presentation of the motion, which was passed yesterday afternoon, as an ambush and irregular.

Within just 10 minutes, the motion had been passed after it was seconded by Lilongwe East Constituency MP, Ezekiel Ching’oma.

When First Deputy Speaker, Madalitso Kazombo, put the motion to discussion, Dowa East representative, Richard Chimwendo Banda, commented on the matter before it was put to a vote.

This prompted government lawmakers to march in unison towards the speaker’s bench baying for his exit from the chamber but Kazombo did not bulge.

On the other side of the aisle, there was jubilation as opposition lawmakers sang and danced in celebration of the passing of the motion—a process which was conducted in one of the most dramatic fashions in the history of Parliament deliberations.

As the noise grew louder, Kazombo suspended the deliberations to today.

Leader of Opposition Lobin Lowe said the lawmakers on his side did nothing wrong in setting the date for the election, saying they followed Standing Order 112 which allows private members to bring a motion to Parliament for debate so long as it is important.

“Our colleagues had promised us that they would bring electoral bills today but when we saw that they were not bringing the bills, we explored other options and discovered that we could still fix the date using a motion and we have done that,” Lowe said.

But Nankhumwa insisted that it was irregular for a private member to bring a motion on the floor on a Government Business day.

Nankhumwa said what happened in the House Tuesday has never been seen anywhere in the world.

He faulted Kazombo for allowing Chihana to table a Private Members Motion on a wrong day.

He added that the government has also set the same date of June 23 for the fresh election in the four bills that would be tabled in Parliament today.

Government Chief Whip, Simon Vuwa Kaunda, also argued that passing a motion would not facilitate the conducting of the fresh election.

Kaunda said it was crucial that Parliament amends Section 80 of the Constitution first, which says that a presidential election should be held alongside a parliamentary election.

But Chancellor College law lecturer Garton Kamchedzera says the government wanted to use the Constitution amendment route and get their MPs to vote against it so that it would not get the two-thirds support required for such amendments.

“The solution was to decide by resolution to effect the [court’s] judgment and gazette it. Likely, the Speaker will cause a clean bill to be prepared and sent to the president. He has no choice, but to assent. Alternatively, Parliament can just gazette its decision, but it is safer to get the President sign,” Kamchedzera said.

The Constitutional Court nullified the 2019 presidential election on the basis of systematic and widespread irregularities and ordered a fresh poll within 150 days from February 3 when it delivered its judgement. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

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