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Opposition rejects Constitution amendment

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Sunduzwayo Madise

Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) Wednesday shot down a decision by the government to amend the Constitution so that it should have a provision to set June 23 as the date on which the country should hold the court-ordered presidential election.

But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Bright Msaka, insisted that the motion which Parliament adopted on Tuesday which set June 23 as the date for the election does not amend Section 80(1) of the Constitution.

The said section stipulates that a presidential election should take place concurrently with the general election for members of the National Assembly.

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And according to Msaka, it cannot happen to have a president who will be elected separately without changing the Constitution.

“If there is need for a separate election, it must also come out in the Constitution,” Msaka said.

But Dean of the Faculty of Law at Chancellor College, Sunduzwayo Madise, argues that with the court’s judgement that declared the 2019 presidential election null and void and ordered a fresh one, the poll has to take place whatever the case.

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According to Madise, the amendment of the Constitution helps in resolving future election issues because it now becomes law.

“Ideally there is supposed to be an amendment but elections should go on because the court ordered. What has happened showed that there is lack of trust and a good working relationship between the two sides.

“If government introduced a bill and changed it, it could be an issue of trust. My view could be that maybe it is for the leaders of all political parties to sit together and formulate a bill that can be trusted by anyone and be passed,” Madise said.

In response to the tabling of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, opposition MPs argued that in its judgement, the Supreme Court ordered Parliament to set a date for the fresh election and not necessarily to amend any Act.

Eventually, the government side failed to meet the two-thirds majority to pass the bill, with 92 MPs voting in favour while 82 voted against it.

The amendment introduced in the rejected bill further gave Parliament the liberty to choose whether the country should maintain the First-Past-the- Post system or change to the 50%+1 system to determine the winner of the election.

Msaka, however, backtracked on the matter and expressed government’s willingness to fight the election through the 50%+1 system which was declared by the courts.

Dowa East MP, Richard Chimwendo Banda of Malawi Congress Party, said the party will not take part in the creation of a constitutional crisis, saying the courts had asked Parliament to set the election date and not the change the Constitution.

On his part, People’s Party lawmaker for Zomba Changalume, John Chikalimba, charged that it was improper for the government side to be talking about the general elections when Parliament was discussing the court-ordered poll.

“The amendment of the constitution is for general elections not for the fresh election. To take the fresh election into the Constitution is irrelevant,” he said.

However, Ned Phoya of United Democratic Front insisted that amending the Constitution was the only way to have a cleaner and neater election.

Meanwhile, Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer, Ian Mwenye, has disclosed that the institution has communicated to the Malawi Electoral Commission the resolution which the lawmakers adopted on Tuesday to have the fresh poll on June 23.

Malawi is expected to hold the fresh presidential election after the courts declared that the May 2019 poll was marred by widespread and systematic irregularities that undermined its credibility and went ahead to nullify it.

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