Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah has said the electoral body will not be able to hold fresh presidential election on May 19.
A Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe on February 3 this year ruled that the country should hold the polls within 150 days from the day of the verdict and Parliament resolved that the polling day should be on May 19.
Speaking at a press briefing in Blantyre Friday, however, Ansah indicated that they will stick to the directive of holding the elections within the period set by the court but, as of now, not on the date set by Parliament.
The Mec Chairperson said: “We will not be ready by the 19th of May because this date is coming in the amendment but what we know is the 150 days that the court has given because the amended law is not law, so we cannot use it at the moment but when it becomes law, we will use it and see how best we can have it.”
She said registration for the fresh elections will be done in six phases which will only be possible if the polls can be held after May 19.
She also defended the decision to hire lawyers from South Africa saying it did not mean that they were underrating local lawyers.
“Firstly, the Attorney General was barred from representing Mec, we approached many local lawyers but they declined to represent us in court and, as you might be aware, local lawyers renew licences every year and, at this time, most of them had expired licences.”
The press briefing happened after a National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) where stakeholders took the electoral body to task for the last year’s elections and the upcoming polls.
One of the stakeholders at Necof, Moses Mkandawire of Church and Society, asked the Mec Chair and the commissioners on the reasons they are failing to step down to which Ansah said “we are ready to leave the commission but we want to leave it in good condition for the good of next commissioners”.
Meanwhile, a legal expert from Justice Link Network Justin Dzonzi has sided with Ansah saying the date will be effective only if President Peter Mutharika assent to the Electoral Reforms Bills.
“The period within which the elections must be held was set by the court which was the 150 days. The determination of a specific date was made by Parliament and because that specific date is a matter of law, it cannot take effect until the President has assented to that bill,” Dzonzi said.
UTM president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera went to the court challenging May 21 2019 presidential election saying it was marred by irregularities.
According to Mec, Mutharika got 1,940, 709 votes against Chakwera’s 1,781, 740 votes and Chilima’s 1,018, 369 votes.
The Constitutional Court nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election results.
Meanwhile, Parliament decided that the fresh election should be held on May 19 2020 after passing the Presidential, Parliamentary Elections Act Amendment bills.
Among others, the bills, which are yet to be assented to by Mutharika, provide for a runoff within 30 days in case that no candidate gets 50-percent-plus-one of votes in the election.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.