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Speaker turns to ConCourt

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Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani Hara, has written the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), through Registrar of the High Court, on President Peter Mutharika’s refusal to sign electoral reforms bills and fire Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners.

Last week, Mutharika, through his Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, announced that he would not fire the commissioners and withheld assent to the bills.

Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament chairperson, Kezzie Msukwa, said Gotani Hara’s move to pen ConCourt was in order.

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“It is perfectly in order as she is reporting on the progress of what the court had ordered Parliament to do. Suffice to say implementation of the orders is completely out of the time limits. Parliament was given 21 days and that meant the President, too, as part of Parliament, ought to have seen the urgency and acted within those days,” Msukwa said.

“National Assembly passed the bills after receiving orders from the ConCourt and it is because of that same reason that my office is reporting the refusal by President Peter Mutharika to sign the bills and fire the commissioner,” Gotani Hara says in the letter.

She says she is referring Mutharika’s response to the four election bills and refusal to fire Mec commissioners to ConCourt for further guidance.

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Mutharika, through Kalilani, said the provisions in the bills were in conflict with the Constitution and other existing laws governing the conduct of elections in Malawi.

Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament made a recommendation that Mutharika should fire the commissioners following an enquiry into their individual competence but the president described the recommendations as laughable, saying the committee did not give the commissioners ample time to prepare for the enquiry.

On February 3 2020, the ConCourt called for fresh presidential election after it found that the May 21 2019 poll was “marred by grave and systematic irregularities”.

However, Mutharika and Mec appealed the ConCourt judgement to the Supreme Court which is expected to start hearing the matter on April 15 2020.

Mec commissioners alongside chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, have refused to resign, with Ansah saying she would only do so if the Supreme Court finds her at fault.

Meanwhile, Mec has announced that the fresh presidential election will take place on July 2 which is within the 150 days the ConCourt ordered the poll to take place.

Mec overruled Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament’s proposal that the poll take place on May 19 2020.

The Constitution says that once a President refuses to assent to a bill, some 21 days must elapse before Parliament can table the bill again.

“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 21 days referred to in sub-section (2) 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 21 days of its presentation,” it reads.

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