Government assures Members of Parliament on Electoral Bills
After mounting pressure, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, Wednesday evening informed Parliament that Cabinet met and made its initial review of the proposed Electoral Reforms Bills and that they would be ready for tabling in the current meeting.
It is not clear whether Tembenu’s declaration came after the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) had earlier announced that it would be petitioning President Peter Mutharika on the issue.
Prior to Tembenu’s announcement, there were reports that Cabinet was yet to meet and discuss the bills, implying that it would be difficult for them to be tabled in the current meeting.
Pressure continued to mount on the government to table the bills in the current meeting following Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec)’s observation that it would not be able to implement the bills if they are passed any time after the current meeting.
“There has been an enquiry as to why those matters are not appearing on the Order Paper or as to when they will appear. I want to state here that Cabinet has met and has made its observations and the bills will be tabled in the current meeting.”
Among others, the Electoral Reforms Bills seek to guide that a presidential candidate should only be declared winner if he/she amasses more than 50 percent of the total national votes cast instead of the current provision which allows a contestant to be declared winner with a simple majority.
It also seeks to delay the swearing in of a winning candidate to help resolve any disputes arising from the election.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Kasungu Central, Amon Nkhata, accused the government of playing tricks on the bills, after promising that it would table them.
He wondered why “some people” would want to frustrate the bills when it is clear that they emanated from recommendations of several stakeholders.
“The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said clearly that the bills would be tabled in this meeting but now, all of a sudden, it seems the government is not willing to have them tabled. We are saying this is the time for the bills to be tabled but, if you see the business that is going to be transacted, you will find that the bills are not there.
“We are representatives of our constituents and we are mandated to discuss any business on their behalf. The bills have to come so that we map the way forward,” Nkhata said.
Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Clement Chiwaya, said it was difficult for him to allow more interpolations on the bills as the responsible minister had indicated that he would speak on them later.
Civil Society Organisations such as the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation and Centre for the Development of People have put their weight behind opposition MPs who are demanding that the Electoral Reforms Bills should be tabled in the current meeting of the august House.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues