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Fresh polls on May 19

DONE DEAL—Opposition MPs celebrate after passing the Bill

Parliament Monday amended the Parliamentary and Presidential Election (PPE) Act paving the way for fresh presidential election to be held on May 19 2020, amid protests from the government and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Members of Parliament (MPs).

The Bill adds that the National Assembly and Local Government authorities, elected in the general election held on May 21 2019, shall be dissolved on March 20 2025 in readiness for a general election.

The amendment has also necessitated a run-off presidential election to be conducted within 30 days in case no candidate amasses 50 percent-plus- one valid votes.

Last week, the 50 percent-plus-one and the run-off amendments, which were supposed to be reflected in the Constitution, were defeated after MPs from the government benches thwarted the two-thirds majority required to have the Constitution amended.

Commenting on the Bill, DPP spokesperson on the matter, Chikwawa North MP, Owen Chomanika, said the amendments had been rushed.

“By inserting section 55A and B on a Bill that we passed just three days ago, we feel that it is not in order. You don’t amend when you don’t have good reasons. We believe that Malawians will stand to judge us on what we are doing. As a party, we are not agreeing to the amendment and the Bill,” he said.

People’s Party, United Democratic Front, Malawi Congress Party and Alliance for Democracy MPs supported the amendments.

The august House also made changes to provisions in the Electoral Commission Act allowing political parties that have a representative in Parliament to recommend names of members of Mec to Public Appointments Committee of Parliament for appointment by the President.

Earlier, members from political parties that have more than one MP were considered for nomination for Mec positions.

Lilongwe City South West MP Nancy Tembo, who brought the PPE Bill, said the amendments do not tamper with the Constitution.

“What we were doing is to effect the orders of the Constitutional Court and we have aligned them with the provision of the Constitution. Using the Constitution, we have developed an Act that will operationalise the Constitutional provision for section 80(2),” she said.

President Peter Mutharika will have to make a decision within 21 days whether to assent to the Bills or not.

Legal Affairs Committee Chairperson, Kezzie Msukwa, said they worked hard to comply with the court order for them to look into the electoral laws within 21 days.

Earlier, Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, protested the decision by the Business Committee to allow two motions to be tabled, stressing that the government side did not have a voice in the resolutions as they were absent.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani-Hara, however, stood by the resolution while making an emphasis that a quorum was formed to continue with the meeting and that the government side failed to delegate.

The court ordered fresh presidential election within 150 days from February 3 2020 when the court delivered the judgement and currently, Mec and Mutharika have sought intervention of the Supreme Court of Appeal against the judgement.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, has announced that a vigil that was scheduled for today at Parliament has been put on hold because the MPs have passed the amended Bill.

Mtambo said they would now wait for Mutharika to assent to the Bill and that Parliament should push for new Mec commissioners to preside over the fresh election.

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