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Poll bills to be retabled

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WITHHELD ASSENT—Mutharika

Electoral bills that were shot down by former president Peter Mutharika after being passed in Parliament are set to return in Parliament during the next meeting scheduled to commence on September 4.

Mutharika withheld assent to the bills claiming they were in conflict with various constitutional provisions and other laws governing the conduct of elections in the country.

Among other things, the former president said the laws could have plunged the country into a constitutional crisis in the event that no presidential candidate got 50%+1 of the total valid vote cast.

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The rejected bills were the Electoral Commission Act Amendment Bill of 2020, Electoral Commission Act Amendment Bill 2 of 2020, Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) Amendment Bill and the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act Amendment Bill 2 of 2020.

The Electoral Commission Act Amendment bills, among others, give powers to Parliament to scrutinise potential Malawi Electoral Commission commissioners before they are sent to the President for approval.

The other bills provide for a run-off election in the event that no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes cast. Malawi was initially using the First- Past-the-Post system or simple majority before the courts directed that the term majority in the Constitution means 50%+1.

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Section 73 of the Constitution reads: “Where a Bill is presented to the President for assent, the President shall either assent or withhold assent and shall do so within twenty-one days from the date the Bill is presented to him or her.

“Where the President withholds assent to a Bill, the Bill shall be returned to the Speaker of the National Assembly by the President with a notification that the President’s assent has been withheld, including reasons therefore, and the Bill shall not be again debated by the National Assembly until after the expiry of twenty-one days from the date of the notification of that withholding.”

It adds that if the bill is debated again and passed by a majority of the National Assembly at any time between the date of the expiry of the twenty-one days and three months from that date, the bill shall again be presented for assent by the President.

“Where a Bill is again presented to the President for assent in accordance with subsection (3), the President shall assent to the Bill within twenty-one days of its presentation. When a Bill that has been duly passed is assented to in accordance with this Constitution, the Clerk shall cause it to be published immediately in the Gazette,” the Constitution states.

In an interview with The Daily Times, Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda said the bills will go back to Parliament so that issues that might have been genuinely identified should be addressed.

“We are expecting to align the bills and do the amendment of the Constitution regarding run-off in case there is an election and we do not have a clear winner. We have other monetary bills [Tax Amendment Bill] that will allow people that receive less than K100,000 not to be taxed,” Chimwendo Banda said.

He added that Parliament, apart from the budget meeting, is also expected to confirm the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service George Kainja who was appointed by President Lazarus Chakwera to replace Duncan Mwapasa who was holding the position in acting capacity.

Chimwendo Banda also said the likelihood that the meeting, which is expected to run for five weeks, will not be in the chamber is high considering the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer Ian Mwenye said the House will be held under strict Covid-19 prevention measures.

Chakwera will officially open the meeting of Parliament with a State of Nation Address. The first budget of the Tonse Alliance administration is also expected to be passed during the meeting after a provisional budget was put together towards the end of June.

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