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Government hopeful on election bills

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Chifundo Kachale

Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda has expressed optimism that Parliament will pass the remaining bills including those to do with electoral reforms before the august House rises sine die this Friday.

Chimwendo Banda’s remarks come after fears have emerged on what would happen in the forthcoming parliamentary and local government by-elections in the event that no single candidate amasses the required 50 percent plus one of the total valid votes.

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) recently announced that following the Supreme Court’s interpretation of ‘majority’ to mean ‘50 percent plus one’, the new system—which was used in the fresh presidential election— will also be applying in the parliamentary and local government polls.

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However, the law that is currently there does not provide for how a run-off election can be conducted.

But Chimwendo Banda said Malawians should not be worried as Parliament would discuss the bills before it rises on Friday.

“We have about three if not four Constitutional Amendment Bills; they will be deliberated because they were already circulated. We have enough time,” Chimwendo Banda said.

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Last week, Mec chairperson Chifundo Kachale said the electoral body could not ignore the Supreme Court’s interpretation of majority even though there is no provision regarding a run-off election.

“The jurisprudence has further observed that the absence of run-off provisions should not be a basis for finding convenient meanings that cover or conceal the inadequacies.

“As Mec, therefore, we cannot cite the absence of legal guidance on how to handle run-offs to ignore this meaning of ‘majority’. The courts have said that where there are deficiencies they need to be pointed out and legislated for,” Kachale said.

The Supreme Court of Appeal in the presidential election petition case ordered that laws have to be put in place to facilitate a possible run-off but Parliament is yet to deliberate on the matter.

Dean of Law at Chancellor College Sunduzwayo Madise recently said he does not think that the interpretation by the Supreme Court went beyond a presidential election to those of Members of Parliament and Ward Councillors.

Madise said the courts were called upon to interpret ‘majority’ in relation to the presidential election as provided for in the Constitution and not under the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act.

However, other schools of thought posit that what Mec has done by ‘wholly’ considering the interpretation as put forward by the courts is ideal in ‘regularising’ the law where necessary.

The courts also suggested to Parliament that it should amend relevant provisions so that the next presidential, parliamentary and local government elections are held together as has previously been the case.

Meanwhile, Mec has deferred by-elections in Mangochi West, Mangochi North East and Phalombe North constituencies after the High Court ordered that only those candidates who participated in the 2019 elections in these constituencies should appear on the ballot papers and that the voter register should be the one used during those elections.

The electoral body has also announced that elections for Lilongwe North West and Karonga Central constituencies and Makhwira South Ward in Chikwawa will proceed on November 10 as planned.

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