As rage for Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners to resign lingers on, Malawi News has established that their tenure of office expires on June 20 2020, barely 13 days before July 2 2020, a date set for the next presidential election.
With President Peter Mutharika having refused to fire the commissioners, it means the commissioners’ contracts will have to be renewed or they will preside over an election with expired contracts.
Asked whether the President will soon consult parties to nominate new members, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani simply said: “Hopefully so.”
Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulilwa confirmed our findings but was quick to say it is upon the appointing authority to ensure measures are put in place to fill the gaps.
“It is open knowledge to every electoral stakeholder that the term of the current cohort comes to an end amid preparations of the fresh elections. It is a common expectation that the appointing authority would take measures to ensure there is no gap in the process,” Mwafulilwa said.
Commenting on the recent development MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said legally Mec commissioners cannot manage any election upon expiry of their contracts.
“The professional incompetence the Constitutional Court and the Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament found them with is more reason they should not come close to managing the fresh election. That said, we will follow the due processes of appointing new commissioners,” Mkaka said.
Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Nicholas Dausi asked for more time to consult.
“I am currently in a meeting of Corona virus. Give me time to consult,” he said.
Social and political commentator Henry Chingaipe concurred with our findings and said, since the current commission has already launched the electoral process for the coming presidential elections, it is unlikely that they will be a new commission in place.
“Commissioners are appointed for a term of four years; it is true that their contracts expire in June except for the chairperson which expires in October.
“The electoral process has begun but polling is in July as announced by Mec, days or weeks after the expiry of their contracts, it is unlikely that the commissioners will exit in June and a new set brought in, to run only the polling and post-polling activities. So it is likely that the contracts will be amended and extended to end of July,” he said.
On February 3 2020, the Constitutional Court nullified May 21 2019 presidential election and called for fresh presidential elections arguing the previous elections were marred by grave and systematic irregularities.
Following the ruling, in mid- February, Pac found all Mec commissioners incompetent to continue holding office and to oversee another election in the country.
However, Mutharika refused to fire the commissioners saying they were not only given enough time to prepare for the inquiry but also the reasoning behind the committee proposal to fire the commissioners is laughable.
On Wednesday this week, UTM and MCP dragged Mutharika and Mec commissioners to court over the commissioner’s refusal to resign from the commission.
Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara has since written the Constitutional Court on Mutharika’s refusal to assent to Electoral Reforms Bills and refusal to fire Mec commissioners.
Since last year’s tripartite elections, MCP and UTM together with Human Rights Defenders Coalition have been asking Mec Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah and her commissioners to step down.
However, there calls through peaceful demonstrations have not yielded anything as Ansah has maintained her stand of not resigning further arguing her conscience is clear that she conducted a free-and-fair election.