Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson, Jane Ansah, has vowed to proceed and manage the fresh presidential election, now scheduled for July 2 2020, despite lingering moral questions on the commission’s competence for the job.
Ansah said this in Blantyre Monday during the launch of the electoral calendar for the fresh election which High Court judges sitting as a Constitutional Court ordered on February 3 2020 when they nullified the May 21 presidential election over “widespread irregularities”.
“That [the question of whether we can manage the election] is of morality. But morality versus the law, we take the law,” she told the press weeks after the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament proposed that the election be held on May 19 2020.
Ansah and the commissioners remain in their seats after President Peter Mutharika refused to fire them for incompetence as recommended by Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament.
Mutharika also refused to assent to electoral reforms bills, which Parliament passed meaning that they are not yet law.
Apart from Ansah, other Mec commissioners are Linda Kunje, Mary Nkosi, Jean Mathanga, Moffat Banda, Yahaya M’madi, Elvey Mtafu, Kilion Mgawi and Clifford Baloyi.
Political parties Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM have repeatedly expressed reservations with the commission’s ability to manage the election. Pac found all the commissioners incompetent to handle the fresh election. But Ansah Tuesday insisted otherwise.
“If you ask us, how comfortable we are to manage the election then answer is that we are comfortable and we will manage the election,” she said.
Releasing the calendar for the election, Ansah said Malawians will vote on July 2 and that voters’ registration shall run from April 4 to June 7 2020 in four phases of 14 days each.
“Please note that the 14 days are a mandatory minimum in accordance with the provisions of the PPE [Presidential and Parliamentary Election] Act in its current form. Mec shall register those that have turned 18, or will attain voting age by June 7 2020 or never registered as voters during the 2019 Tripartite Elections and the three by-elections held thereafter,” she said.
Ansah said nomination forms are available for collection from the commission’s head offices in Blantyre from yesterday and that official campaign period will run from May 2 to June 30.
“Nomination of the candidates shall take place on 23rd and 24th April 2020 in Blantyre. This, we believe, will give ample time for aspirants to satisfy the requirements for a successful nomination. The nomination fee remains at K2,000,000 for all [each] candidate,” Ansah said.
Ansah conceded loss of trust between the commission and other political parties but said Mec will try and restore it by working on the faults which the Constitutional Court pointed out when nullifying the May 21 presidential election results.
Recently, Ansah told electoral stakeholders at the National Consultative Meeting in Blantyre that because President Peter Mutharika did not assent to the electoral reforms bills which Parliament passed, Mec will operate within “the existing legal framework. This is the same legal framework that was in existence during the 21st May 2019 election.”
The Constitutional Court had ordered Parliament to come up with legislation for operationalising the 50 percent-plus-one threshold for determining the winner of the presidential election and tasked Pac to assess the competence of current Mec commissioners to manage the fresh election.
The President also refused to fire the Mec commissioners, saying Pac did not give them time to prepare for the capacity test.
Mutharika also said the provisions in the bills were in conflict with the Constitution and other existing laws governing the conduct of the elections.
Among others, Parliament passed the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act Amendment Bill which set the polling day on May 19 and subsequent general elections during the third week of May 2025.
Parliament also passed the Electoral Commission Act Amendment Bill with new procedures of choosing Mec commissioners, saying candidates for such positions should be scrutinised by Parliament before being sent to the President.