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House passes two electoral motions

Parliament Wednesday passed two motions that will pave way for the tabling of electoral bills which will assist in complying with the Constitutional Court’s recent orders.

The orders are to do with the holding of fresh Presidential election within 150 days from February 3, 2020.

Lilongwe City South West Member of Parliament (MP), Nancy Tembo, tabled a motion which will lead to the amendment of the Parliamentary Election Act while Nkhata Bay West MP, Chrispine Mphande tabled a motion which will lead to the tabling a bill on the amendment to the Electoral Commission Act.

Tembo said the motions will help a lot in the holding of fresh election. “This Bill enacts an amendment to the Parliamentary and

Presidential Election Act, an amendment to abridge the period of registration of voters for fresh election to be held. This is in order to meet timeline of 150 days within which the election shall be held.

“A further amendment of the Act is to add a provision to Section 57 with regard to the campaign period for a run-off presidential election, in the event that no candidate attains the majority of the vote cast.

The provision indicates that the campaign period for the run-off presidential election shall commence after the announcement that there shall be a run-off and shall close 48 hours before polling day,” Tembo said.

During debate, most MPs from the government benches expressed disappointment with the Constitutional Court for what they said it is interfering with the legislature.

Mulanje South MP Yusuf Nthenda said the Constitutional Court has no powers to dictate business of Parliament as the Judiciary is another arm of the government. He, however, supported Tembo’s motion. On her part, Nkhotakota North East MP, Martha Chanjo Mhone, who is also Deputy Leader of the House, said the court should respect the principle of separation of powers.

Despite reservations, some MPs had on the motion, the House adopted it. In an interview later, Tembo said the Bill is ready and it will be tabled either today or tomorrow.

However, the motion on the Electoral Commission Act, which generally looks at the appointment of commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) and its top officials, received strong resistance from the government benches.

The MPs reached an extent of voting to make a decision on it. After a roll call vote, 91 MPs, mostly from Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Democratic Front (UDF), UTM and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) supported it. Some Independent MPs also supported it.

On the other hand, 84 MPs, mostly from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some independent MPs voted against the motion. Fifteen MPs were absent. Mphande told the House that the Bill to be developed provides that nominations for appointments to, Mec shall be received from political parties represented in Parliament by more than one member.

“The Bill proposes an Amendment to the Electoral Commission Act that removes the competence of the Attorney General to provide legal representation to the Electoral Commission in court proceedings in relation to electoral petitions,” Mphande said. Mphande also said the Bill makes ancillary provisions with respect to the office of Chief Elections Officer for better management of fresh presidential election.

“This entails the assumption of the office of the Chief Elections Officer, ex tempore (for the time being) by Clerk of Parliament to replace the Chief Elections Officer in office at the commencement of the Act proposed, who shall be entitled to receive full terminal benefits on termination of service in that office.”

Before the motion passed, Mulanje Bale MP Victor Musowa said the country should not have laws that are aimed at dismissing people from their positions.

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