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Speaker queries government on electoral reforms

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Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, Thursday pressed the government to come out in the open and explain why it has not provided additional bills, including the contentious Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills, despite making several assurances that the bills would be tabled during this meeting of Parliament.

Msowoya, who chairs the Business Committee of Parliament, asked the government to come out clear on the promise it made to Parliament.

The Business Committee of Parliament compiles the agenda which Parliament debates in a meeting.

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“In terms of the new bills, the Business Committee was informed that the office has so far received only one money bill. The committee was, however, assured that the government would bring to this House additional bills once Cabinet has approved them, among them six Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills,” he said

This week, the Public Affairs Committee announced that it would stage national demonstrations on December 13 in an attempt to pressurise the government to table the bills in the current meeting.

“Since the House has received several petitions, it means that we have to revisit what we announced to the public and be accountable. Today is week number three. We have only two weeks to go and people are asking and therefore I would like to ask the government side to pronounce itself on this promise and the announcement made. Where are the bills?” Msowoya said.

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Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, referred the matter to Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu.

In his response, Tembenu said the bills would be brought to the House once the Cabinet completes reviewing them.

“I would like to inform the House that the bills will be here as soon as Cabinet finalises working on them,” he said

But Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Lazarus Chakwera, expressed disappointment with the development, saying the government is failing to live up to its promise.

“It’s not just once or twice that we have been assured repeatedly that this is the meeting that the bills will be brought here. And we can go back to last year to other sessions and I am extremely disappointed. I don’t know really what message we want to tell Malawians,” he said

Chakwera said it is an outstanding issue as the recommendation to have the electoral reforms was also made in previous elections.

Leader of People’s Party in Parliament, Ralph Mhone, said, based on the minister’s response, the House has been kept in suspense on what is holding the bills from being tabled in the House.

“We, as a party, are also disappointed that the executive is not keeping its promise. We were told before the meeting started that the Cabinet was scrutinising the bills. If they have not yet finished, it might mean that the Cabinet is maybe scrutinising beyond what was recommended. We should have been told,” he said

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