Fresh poll fate today
The Business Committee of Parliament is today expected to decide whether to prioritise the passing of election-related bills or the national budget and whether to set an election date as a way of resolution or table it as an electoral bill.
Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara confirmed that the Business Committee—which comprises leaders of all political parties represented in the National Assembly— will be meeting today to discuss how the august House will be managed.
President Peter Mutharika last Friday opened the budget meeting of Parliament where Members of Parliament (MPs) are expected to deliberate the 2020/21 financial blueprint and the electoral reforms bills that will enable the country hold the fresh presidential election within 150 days as ordered by the courts.
Hara said today’s meeting is expected to discuss how various items on the agenda will be handled and that includes endorsing June 23 as the date for fresh presidential election.
“We will discuss how Parliament will approach a number of items on the agenda including the electoral bills,” she said.
Following the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment on the presidential election case, Malawi Electoral Commission suggested that June 23 should be the date for the fresh presidential election and referred to Parliament to ‘normalise’ the date.
Hara said she was hopeful that there will be enough time for Parliament to do what is required of it.
“It is doable for us to pass the bills in support of the election before June 23. If you remember last time, we passed several bills within a record time and it can be done again. It all depends on how the members decide to treat the issue,” she said.
There have been questions on whether Parliament will endorse the June 23 date as a way of resolution or an Act of Parliament which needs President Peter Mutharika to assent to it.
Chancellor College Dean of Law, Sunduzwayo Madise, said Parliament has to endorse the election date by passing a bill as “a resolution is non-binding”.
He also pointed out that the lawmakers can re-deliberate and resend to Mutharika the bill which initially set the election on May 19 before the president rejected it.
“If it is the same bill with just a change on the date, then the President does not have a choice but to assent to it, but let us cross the bridge when we get there,” Madise said.
Both Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe did not pick their mobile phones for a comment on the meeting.
Malawi Congress Party Chief Whip Sam Kawale said he could not comment on the matter until it comes out officially that the bills will be part of what will be discussed during the present Parliament meeting.
“We are meeting tomorrow. It is after that meeting that we will know if we are discussing this or not,” he said.
Mutharika, who has on several occasions denounced the election, withheld his assent to a number of electoral reform bills including the one which had set the date for the fresh presidential poll on May 19.
In his State of National Address on Friday, Mutharika reiterated that nullifying last year’s presidential election was nullifying the will of people and further charged that any attempt to remove him from office at the end of the 150 days which the courts gave Mec to hold the election will be tantamount to treason.