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Govt won’t be forced to table Electoral Reforms Bills—Tembenu

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Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, has said the government will not be forced to take the Electoral Reforms Bills to the House before they are fully scrutinised.
This is despite growing calls that the bills should be tabled in the current meeting of Parliament,
While saying the scrutiny is at an advanced stage, Tembenu, could not come clear on when the exercise would be concluded.
“There are a number of bills being looked at, six in total, and, apparently, Parliament has only been meeting for three weeks and there are three more weeks to go before the meeting is over,” Tembenu said.
Cabinet has been scrutinising a Special Law Commission report on the reforms and its recommendations for six bills. Some of the issues raised in the bills are changes to the Constitution with regard to 50 percent+1 system of electing presidents and appointment of chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
There are also proposals to reserve seats for women, to review time taken to swear-in the country’s president after elections. Another task is consolidation of three pieces of legislation on elections.
“All these bills were recommended by the Law Commission. Cabinet has to look at these holistically, in terms of the Law Commission Act. Cabinet has had time to look at these but we could not finish all these six bills in a single session,” Tembenu said.
He added: “People have to be patient as these bills will be changed. No one is sitting on them. People need to understand that it took the Law Commission nine months to formulate the bills and it cannot take them a single sitting to change all these things.”
The Public Affairs Committee (Pac) delivered a petition to Parliament about two weeks ago, in an effort to compel government to table the bills by November 29 2017. However, the government did not respect the petition, and Pac announced plans to hold nationwide demonstrations on December 13 2017.
Pac’s position is supported by Members of Parliament, especially those from the opposition benches.
However, some civil society organisations, and chiefs are against the bills, demanding further consultations, but Tembenu says their work will not be affected by the petitions that have been delivered.
Meanwhile, Pac’s plans for December 13 nationwide demonstrations have received a boost from Catholic Bishops, the Malawi Council of Churches, who have said all church members should be encouraged to participate in them.

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