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Chilima’s aide committed an offence—Ansah

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The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah on Tuesday said Moses Kuchingale — aide to Vice President Saulos Chilima — committed a cognizable offence when he was found with the commission’s regalia during by-elections in Mchinji West Constituency on November 1, 2016.

Ansah said police officers had the authority to make an immediate arrest without a warrant and to start investigations with or without the permission of a court.

The Supreme Court of Appeal judge was responding to concerns from stakeholders at a meeting in Blantyre where the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) was presenting its report following an assessment on the implementation of non-legislative electoral reforms by MEC during the November 1 by-elections in one constituency and four wards.

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In a statement that fell short of criticising the police officers for letting the suspect scot-free, Ansah said the law only allows presiding officers to assist voters, hence it is an offence if someone carries out different tasks on the polling day.

The assessment exercise was preceded by a historic signing on October 14, 2016 of a joint communiqué by MEC, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) and Mesn on the implementation of prioritised non-legislative electoral reforms.

Some of the non-legislative reforms the three parties agreed to implement during the by-elections were to improve delivery of election materials and improve management and transmission of election results.

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On the reforms MEC is pursuing, Ansah said they were satisfied with the way they had been implemented in the by-elections.

“I’m happy to share with you that some of the reforms that were feasible were implemented and contributed to having a successful by-election on November 1,” she said.

She added that a collective determination to ensure that credible, effective, free and fair elections are delivered would help the nation in entrenching democracy.

“You, our stakeholders, are dedicated, committed and selfless in managing the electoral process and I would like to encourage you to keep up this exceptional spirit,” she said.

While raising concerns over political party agents interfering with the by-elections, CMD representative Ulemu Chilapondwa commended MEC for implementing the non-legislative reforms.

“We want to see things moving forward. We want to experience credible elections that would be accepted by everyone. We promise to be a useful tool for transformation,” Chilapondwa said.

Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa also commended the commission for starting out well despite having new management of the secretariat (now headed by acting deputy chief elections officer Thandi Nkovole), commissioners and chairperson.

“This is very important when we consider that after the 2014 Tripartite Elections, many stakeholders had lots of misgivings about the capacity, integrity and credibility of the electoral commission,” Duwa said.

He observed that following the development, the new commissioners should consider the rebranding of MEC as a priority.

On the electoral reforms laws, Duwa said Mesn has no authority in terms of dictating the pace and what finally should be considered.

He added that the submission of all reports to the Law Commission to start the law reform process marked the end of the National Taskforce on Electoral Reforms which Mesn co-chaired.

“It is the law commission which is better placed to comment on this process and not anyone else,” he said.

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