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Mec commissioners to meet Parliament

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners are expected to appear before Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament in Lilongwe today.

A source at Parliament said Mec has withdrawn its communication that it may not meet Parliament as summoned.

“Summons were issued to them and they have now communicated that they have withdrawn their communication that they will not come, so they are expected to appear before the committee on Monday,” the source said.

Earlier, Pac Chairperson, Collins Kajawa, said they received communication from Mec that the electoral body requires 21 days before meeting the committee.

“Yes, we have received communication stating that they need an extension of 21 days. We sent a summons and if the summons do not work, we subpoena the stakeholders. When people fail to appear, they risk being arrested,” he had said before Mec had made the U-turn.

The Constitutional Court, which nullified the May 21 presidential election results citing irregularities, last week on Monday, tasked Pac with scrutinising if the commissioners were competent to handle fresh presidential election within 150 days from February 3 2020 in view of their performance in last year’s election.

Powers and Privileges Act, which is part of the Act of Parliament, says a person who disregards such a summons risks an arrest.

“The Speaker may, upon being satisfied direct the Clerk to issue a warrant, in such form as may be prescribed, to apprehend him

and bring him, at a time and place to be stated in the warrant, before the Assembly or the committee. A warrant issued under this section shall be executed by a police officer,” the Act reads.

A communique from Mec addressed to Pac had earlier indicated that the summons had been brought to the attention of the commissioners and considering that Pac has invited the commissioners as witnesses and that they must appear before the committee individually, Mec is entitled to seek legal advice before meeting the committee.

But Mec Director of Media and Public Relations, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, while distancing the commission from the communication, said Mec would respect the confidentiality of the process as such may not divulge the contents of the communication from Mec to Parliament.

“If Parliament wants, they can disclose to you. So, I will not comment regarding the authenticity of the documents in public circulation,” he said.

Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani-Hara, last week told journalists that the august House has not received any different direction from the court, as such, Parliament will follow the court’s order regarding making laws on fresh election despite President Peter Mutharika and Mec appealing the case.

On the issue regarding dissolving the current commission, the Speaker said Pac will meet from today and discuss the matter.

She said Pac will then make a verdict on the issue. Some of the Mec commissioners are Jean Mathanga, Moffat Banda, Elvy Mtafu, Mary Nkosi, Killion Mgawi, Yahaya M’madi, Linda Kunje and Clifford Baloyi.

The President appoints the commissioners in respect of Electoral Commission Act of 1998.

Meanwhile, Parliament is expected to start meeting today when, among other issues, it is expected to deliberate Bills regarding fresh election as ordered by the court and also do a mid-year budget review.

On February 3 2020, the court ordered that Parliament should put in place laws ensuring that the presidential election winner gets 50 % + 1 percent of total votes cast and not just any simple majority.

The court also directed the House to make laws regarding the fresh election.

Gotani-Hara said Parliament will deliberate within the given 21 days from the date of the ruling issues regarding Bills on fresh election.

“We will be doing what the courts have said and make sure we move with speed. Aside the elections Bills, we are also going to do a mid-year budget review,” she said.

In the morning, Members of Parliament will, first of all, witness the swearing-in of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) newly elected legislator Peter Dimba, who won Lilongwe South Constituency by-election recently.

In the afternoon, the legislators will deliberate their normal duties.

The court ruled in favour of petitioners MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima nullifying last year’s presidential election results.

Mec had declared Mutharika the winner by 38 percent followed by Chakwera’s 35 and Chilima’s 20. Following the nullification, Chilima is back as Vice-President.

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