Mounting pressure yesterday forced the government to stick to a promise made earlier in the week and circulated three out of six Electoral Reforms (Amendment) Bills set to be tabled in the current meeting of Parliament.
The three bills circulated are the Referendum Bill, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill and the Assumption of Office of President (Transitional Arrangements) Bill, The Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, among other proposals, wants to establish a ‘Selection Panel’ to be responsible for inviting and assessing applications for commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), and making recommendations to the president
The proposed composition of the ‘Selection Panel’ is the Law Commissioner, the Chairperson the Malawi Human Rights Commission, a judge of the High Court nominated by the Judicial Service Commission and two representatives of civil society organsations nominated by the NGO Board.
This bill, if passed, would effectively strip the powers of the president to appoint Mec commissioners only in consultation with political parties.
The Referendum Bill seeks to provide the conduct and holding of a referendum in Malawi and other matters connected to it.
The highlights in this bill are the proposed 500,000 signatures of registered voters to petition the president to call for a referendum and also provisions to only hold a referendum under the following matters; amendment of the Constitution, national legislation, national policy, citizen welfare; and any other matter as may be determined by the president to be in the public interest.
The final bill circulated was the Assumption of Office President (Transitional Arrangements) Bill. This bill seeks to regulate the transition from one administration to another following a general election and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental.
The transition team shall consist of the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet who shall be the Chairperson; the Secretary to the Treasury; the Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice; the Commander of the Malawi Defence Force; the Inspector General of Police; the Director General of State Residences; not more than three persons appointed by an incumbent president; and not more than three persons appointed by the president-elect.
“We are going to bring the remaining bills,” Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa said when asked when the remaining three bills would be brought to Parliament.
“I cannot tell you when because we have to crosscheck information with the Ministry of Justice and other related offices. But we are going to circulate these bills before Parliament rises,” Nankhumwa added.
Among the remaining bills is the contentious Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which wants a president to be elected by a majority of more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast through direct, universal and equal suffrage and, where such majority is not obtained by any presidential candidate in the first poll, a second poll shall be held within 30 days with only two candidates who obtained the highest and second highest number of valid vote cast as the only candidates.
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