By Rebecca Chimjeka:
Law experts, Thursday, asked Members of Parliament (MPs), meeting in Lilongwe starting today, to avoid constitutional amendments if the fresh presidential election is to be held within the 150 days.
Parliament is meeting today for the 2020/2021 national budget deliberations, however, the MPs are also excepted to discuss electoral law amendments that would include endorsing a date for the fresh presidential elections.
But Chancellor College law expert Garton Kamchedzera observed that amending the Constitution is a lengthy process and may not fit within the 150 days set by the Constitutional Court on February 3.
He made the observation yesterday in Lilongwe when he presented a paper during a Civil Society Organisations Fresh Presidential Election High Level Seminar, facilitated by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice).
The Constitutional court ordered parliament to take necessary actions including amendment of Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act to add a provision for holding of a run-off presidential election if no candidate in presidential elections gets half or more of the valid votes, otherwise known as 50%+1.
Kamchezera said the shortest way out could be to amend the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) and set the date for the fresh elections.
He said one of the challenges the fresh elections is facing is that President Peter Mutharika has already faulted the courts for nullifying the May 21 2019 presidential elections.
He also cited Mutharika’s reluctance to assent to the electoral reform bills that were passed in Parliament as another challenge.
Kamchedzera said lack of political will from the authorities would undermine plans to hold the election within the time frame prescribed by the courts.
During the presentation, Kamchedzera also touched on the new commissioners for the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), that president Peter Mutharika is expected to appoint, recommending that they should suspend Chief Elections Officer, Sam Alfandika, if the results of the fresh presidential elections are to be accepted by all parties involved.
“When the court said that Mec was in serious incompetence it meant that all the people who were at the helm of conducting the 2019 election, including the secretariat were incompetent and they were a danger to the country’s democracy,” Kamchedzera said.
He said the resignation of Justice Jane Ansah as Mec chairperson would not mean anything, if Alfandika is left to manage the fresh elections.
Another law expert, Justin Dzonzi, said Malawi is facing problems now because the framers of the Constitution failed to account for a vacancy in the office of the President in the case of election nullification.
In his presentation titled ‘Law and Politics of Setting the Polling Date for Fresh Presidential Elections’, Dzonzi cited several challenges surrounding the setting of the date for the forthcoming election.
“The perception is that the ruling party is bent on fighting constitutionalism thereby flouting the concept of limited government, public trust thereby placing an emphasis on mediocrity and impunity. This is compounded further by the attacks on the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers,” Dzonzi said.
In a separate interview Chancellor College Dean of Law Sunduzwayo Madise said while it was technically possible to amend the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act but the consutition may still be needed to be amended to ensure the next election is held properly.
The seminar was attended by legal and political experts, civil society organisations representatives as well as political party representatives.