Pressure is building on President Peter Mutharika to append his signature on the Electoral Reform Bills which parliament passed recently and comply with recommendations that Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of parliament dropped on his desk.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) is the latest to add pressure to Mutharika with the organisation threatening to hold demonstrations outside State House in Lilongwe if the President keeps on dragging his feet.
HRDC Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, speaking in Nkhata Bay on Tuesday after Martyrs’ Day commemorations, said the 150 days which the Constitutional Court ordered to have fresh election are running out.
“Mutharika has not yet fired Jane Ansah [Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) chairperson]. We are telling him that he should not waste our time. We have only few days remaining but he has not yet signed the Electoral Reforms Bills,” he said.
Mutharika’s spokesperson, Mgeme Kalilani, could not say if the President has acted on Pac’s recommendation.
He said the decision to fire or not lies with the President and he shall exercise those powers using his discretion as the law requires.
Kalilani said Mutharika cannot be forced to mention dates when he intends to fire the commissioners because it is open to him to decide according to his constitutionally given discretion.
Parliament passed the Bills in line with the Constitutional Court directive when it nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election results on February 3 2020.
In line with the same court order, Pac conducted a competence audit for all Mec commissioners, including Ansah, and found them incompetent to handle the forthcoming fresh presidential election scheduled for May 19 2020.
Pac recommended that the commission be dismantled to pave way for the appointment of new commissioners to take charge of the forthcoming polls.
Recently, law professor at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Edge Kanyongolo, said under section 73 (4) of the Constitution, the President has no choice but to assent to the Bills.
He said in the event that Mutharika does not assent to the Bills, the august House can obtain a court order, declaring that the President had acted unconstitutionally, or directing him to act according to the Constitution or prescribing the legal sanctions to be imposed on him as the court would, in its discretion, consider appropriate.
Section 73 of the Constitution states that where a Bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall either assent or withhold assent and shall do so within 21 days from the date the Bill is presented to him.