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Parliament shreds Electoral Commission Bill

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The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament has said political parties should continue participating in the identification and recruitment of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) chairperson and commissioners.

The committee’s Chairperson, Maxwell Thyolera, in a report on the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, presented to the august House yesterday, said this will not erode the trust that the parties have in the commission’s operations during elections.

The bill has removed the requirement for the president to consult political parties represented in the National Assembly but gives the president powers to appoint commissioners.

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Thyolera fears that this could compromise the independence of Mec.

“What this means is that the identification, recruitment and formal appointment of the commissioners will solely be made by the president. The president is an interested party in the elections and the committee does not want to be too naïve to believe that the president might not appoint persons who will favour his political interests and ambitions. This might compromise the independence of the commission,” he said

He said the bill also promotes Executive interference in the commission by including the chief secretary [to the government] to determine the terms and conditions of service of the commissioners.

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“There is no justification why the chief secretary must determine the terms and conditions of the commissioners instead of the Public Appointments Committee. We have read the Special Law Commission report on electoral reforms. There is nowhere in the report [where it] states that consultations with the public have identified any problems with Public Appointments Committee determining the terms and conditions of commissioners,” he said

However, the committee supports the objectives of the bill of empowering the Electoral Commission to demarcate wards in constituencies, as the current law provides for not more than two wards per constituency.

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs tabled the bill in 2017 but the House referred it to the committee for further scrutiny.

Members of Parliament are expected to discuss the report and later continue with other stages of the bill next week.

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