President Peter Mutharika has advised the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to resist the temptation of proposing electoral law reforms as a response to sectoral complaints as opposed to a genuine national concern.
Speaking to Mec Commissioners on Tuesday, Mutharika observed that with careful consultation and consideration, the electoral body will discover that some of the proposed reforms may be unnecessary.
“The real problem lies in the manner your Commission discharges its constitutional mandate and not because of any inadequacies in the law. My appeal, therefore, is that all the stakeholders involved in this reform process must make sensible and reasonable proposals that are workable and practical,” Mutharika said.
He added: “I have listened carefully to what you have said regarding the steps you intend to take in reforming the electoral laws in this country. Whatever work you have done or are doing must have the support of the people of Malawi. We have in this country an elaborate constitutional process of originating, presenting and passing of all laws. That process ought to be respected.”
Mutharika further said the need to make the reformed laws alone cannot deliver the desired results unless that change starts with Commissioners themselves who have at times been influenced by party affiliations.
“The law requires that in the discharge of your duties, you must be totally independent of any party affiliations. But, from the lessons we learnt during the 2014 elections, some of the challenges you experienced appeared to me to be the result of divisions in your midst as well as lack of decisiveness in making decisions strictly according to your legal mandate. As Commissioners, you must be fully cognizant of your mandate as conferred on the Commission by the Constitution. My appeal, therefore, is that all the Stakeholders involved in this reform process must make sensible and reasonable proposals that are workable and practical,” he said.
Mutharika also asked the commissioners to handle the process of re-demarcating wards and constituencies properly and according to the dictates of the law.
In an interview later, Chairperson of the Electoral Reforms Task Force, Emmanuel Chimkwita-Phiri, revealed that most citizens and electoral stakeholders want to see a some significant changes in the electoral laws, including how individuals are nominated to stand as presidential candidates.
“People are proposing that a presidential candidate must be nominated by 1,000 people per district in almost 90percent of the country’s districts as opposed to the current situation where a candidate simply requires to be nominated by only ten people per district. Other areas that people want to be changed are on general electoral management as well as citizens’ participation in elections and on this they are proposing that electoral studies be introduced in the education curriculum from the primary school level,” Chimkwita said.
Some opposition parties have threatened that if electoral laws are not going to be effected they will organise street demonstrations.
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