The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament has endorsed Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec)’s new date of June 23 2020 for the fresh presidential election after the electoral body backtracked on its earlier announcement that the poll should be held on July 2.
Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah and Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale Thursday appeared before the committee to discuss new dates and the status of preparations towards the fresh poll.
The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the judgement of the High Court, which had handled the election petition case as a constitutional referral, where it nullified the 2019 presidential poll and ordered that a fresh one should be held within 150 days from February 3 when it delivered its judgement.
In an interview after the meeting, Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, Kezzie Msukwa, said the committee asked Mec to continue with election preparations based on the June 23 2020 date.
“We will discuss the way forward on putting the date into laws. After that, Parliament will be guided to make the laws as required,” he said.
In February, the committee facilitated the amendment of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (PPEA), among other bills, where it set May 19 2020 as the date Malawi needed to go to the presidential election, but President Peter Mutharika shot down the bills, invalidating the dates.
Msukwa further said the committee has put aside the discussion on all electoral laws apparently because the political environment is not conducive, hence only the new date and procedures to follow for a possible run-off will be addressed.
The enforcement of the new date will wait for Parliament to convene and approve it through the amending of the PPEA once more.
Kaphale, however, urged Parliament to ensure that it sets a date that will facilitate a genuine election in line with the international obligation that Malawi has under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“I have just given broad advice and I did not zero in on any date. They know what a genuine election is. People campaign within a period as stipulated by the law and there are international observers, so they only have to set that date in order for the country to have that genuine election,” Kaphale said.
Ansah, who was accompanied by commissioners Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje, refused to grant journalists interviews on what had transpired during the meeting and whether they were going to resign after being declared incompetent by two courts and the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament.
But Msukwa said Mec put it to the committee that the Covid-19 pandemic has hampered its preparations for the fresh poll, particularly the printing of ballot papers which is supposed to take place outside the country. The electoral body also reiterated that it has a budget deficit of K8 billion.
Msukwa said Kaphale also informed the committee that the commissioners’ contracts would end on June 5 2020 and that the development might pose a challenge on the management of the election.
“It is not for this committee to consider the commissioners’ contracts. The President is aware that the commissioners have to be out that time, so he has to make necessary consultations to ensure that new commissioners are in place in time,” he said.
Alliances of Malawi Congress Party and UTM on the one hand and Democratic Progressive Party and United Democratic Front on the other have been going around the country wooing potential voters to side with them at the fresh poll which was initially set for July 2.
They are in the third week of the official campaign period which was declared by Mec.