A local citizen, Ambokire Salimu, has moved the High Court to grant him an ex-parte injunction restraining the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) from holding any other elections in Malawi until an express statutory provision is enshrined in the electoral laws to public officers to account for campaign promises they make to get into office.
According to an affidavit that has been attached to judicial review civil application number 80 of 2016, section 6 of the Constitution expressly says that all authority to govern derives from the people yet the legislation under which Mec has continued to conduct elections does not bind those seeking election to public office to their campaign promises.
“We currently have a situation where the Electoral Commission is conducting elections, be it presidential, parliamentary or local government using legislation that does not place any direct legal obligation on those seeking public office through such elections to fulfill the promises they make to the people from whom their authority to govern comes. Both the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act and the Political Parties (Registration and Regulations) Acts do not in that regard comply with Section 6 of the Constitution,” read the grounds in the application.
Salimu further argues, in the application, that the only way the
respondent (Mec) can comply with section76 of the Constitution is to refer to the Law Commission for review of the three pieces of legislation so that it becomes an express legal obligation on the part of those seeking to govern the people of Malawi to fulfill their election campaign promise.
“There is no alternative for the respondent (Mec). Suing a particular political party in respect of its campaign promises would be unjustifiable at common law and thus defeating section 6 of the Constitution because unlike in the UK where the Prime Minister is chosen by those in majority in parliament, in Malawi we have a direct vote”.
To give context to the problem of electoral candidates duping the people and the subsequent impunity they enjoy post-election, Salimu has cited in his affidavit the case of the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration that won the tripartite elections on the promise that it shall reduce the powers of the president in respect of the appointment of directors of institutions like the Anti- Corruption Bureau.
“Now produced and marked to ‘AB3’ is a copy of the DPP manifesto. Please look at pages 12, paragraph (xiv) and 27, paragraph (xiii) of the said manifesto. Yet a year after the said elections, during the last sitting of Parliament, the party used its majority members in Parliament to defeat a Private Members’ Bill that sought to amend the corrupt practices Act to align it with the exact promises in the DPP manifesto”, reads the affidavit.
Salimu argues that what happened in the National Assembly pertaining to the private members’ Bill to amend the corrupt practices Act is an example of eventualities arising out of lack of express statutory prescription binding those who seek public office to be bound by their campaign promises.
Meanwhile, High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda has set Thursday next week for a preliminary hearing.
Meanwhile, Salimu has called for support from civil society organisations and other well-wishers who can come forward and join him in the case as friends of court.
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