UK, Germany speak on electoral bills


The United Kingdom and German, who directly or indirectly funded the process of the ‘dead’ electoral reforms, have expressed their disappointment over their collapse in Parliament in December.

Three Electoral Reforms Bills that were completely rejected by governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and its allies in Parliament are dead and will need another whole process of reviving them.

Stakeholders who include the public, donors and opposition political parties are hoping that the bills would return to Parliament when the lawmakers regroup on Monday for the mid-year budget review meeting.


But Malawi News understands that it might be only the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill which may see the light of day any time soon as it is now up to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to present a report which could trigger its return. However, the Assumption of Office of the President

(Transitional Arrangements), the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections and the Constitutional Amendment bills are dead and it is not known if they can be revived.

British High Commissioner, Holly Tett, said in a written questionnaire her government is hopeful that the bills that were returned back to Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs will be reviewed and brought back for debate in Parliament.


She added that the Bills that cover the assumption of office of the president (transitional arrangements), the Electoral Commission and some other specific proposals to enhance management and delivery of elections can still be considered in time for the 2019 tripartite elections.

“UK recognises and values the independence of Parliament as an institution that makes laws. We regret however that, following our investment in the process, a full debate on the bills did not take place in the last parliamentary session…we remain hopeful that the bills will be reviewed and brought back for debate in parliament,” she said.

Tett said her government was one of the contributors to the Elections Basket Fund, which gave US$458,000 to the Law Commission for the electoral reforms process adding that, the UK also provided some support through the National Democratic Institute’s “Enhancing the Prospects for

Peaceful, Accountable and Credible Elections” programme to support the National taskforce on electoral reforms between August, 2014 and July, 2016.

On his part, German Ambassador ürgen Borsch, whose government has been supporting the electoral reform process as a member state of the European Union, said the collapse of the bills was a missed opportunity.

“After the elections in 2014 the Malawi government requested development partners for financial support to reflect on lessons learnt and thereafter, the elaboration of reform proposals for the next elections. It is upon that request the international community reacted and engaged significantly in supporting the Mec in setting up the Special Law Commission and starting the process, electoral reforms are always controversial and need a thorough discussion,“ Borsch said.

He said the Ministry of Justice and the Malawi Electoral Commission should discuss with all relevant stakeholders on how to move forward with the issue.

”It is our hope that this will be done in a timely manner so that there is enough time to implement those improvements on administrative, technical and organizational level that had already been identified in 2014” concluded Borsch.

Last year, Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah appealed for speed in effecting changes to the country’s electoral laws, if they are to be used in 2019 elections.

However, in the last meeting of Parliament, MPs blocked Constitution (Amendment) Bill No 2 of 2017, Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill and Assumption of Office of the President (Transitional Arrangements) Bill.

Another Bill that was expected to be tabled, discussed and passed in the November 2017 meeting of Parliament was the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, but the legislators referred it to the Legal Affairs Committee.

The MPs only passed the Referendum Bill which, to many people, was not as significant as the bills that were blocked.

Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and other stakeholders are hoping that the bills might return to Parliament when the lawmakers meet again Monday for the mid-year budget review session.

MCP deputy Secretary General Mkaka said the bills were about entrenching democracy and guaranteeing a better future for Malawi.

“As a matter of fact, it should not sadden donors only but also us Malawians, ” Mkaka said.

He said MCP is promising Malawians and development partners to pass the bills without hesitation should they get in power in 2019.

Before the bills were tabled and rejected by parliament, President Peter Mutharika had a meeting with some People Party (PP) Members of Parliament at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.

The meeting was suspected to have influenced some PP lawmakers’ decision to side with government.

In the course of the previous meeting of Parliament, there were also revelations that DPP and United Democratic Front (UDF) MPs and those who supported government were receiving K20 000 extra allowances from State House to motivate them to tow the government line.

Minister of Justice and constitutional affairs Samuel Tembenu said government did its part to allow the whole process to take place. When the need to do those reforms arose, government participated in the entire process.

In fact, the minister of Finance [Goodall Gondwe] and former UNDP Resident representative [Mia Seppo] co-chaired the steering committee and their recommendation was sent to the Special Law Commission to come up with the bills. Government took almost every recommendation and added some things to underscore the legitimacy of the bill, government did what it could have done, the bills were presented at Parliament and this was done,” Tembenu said.

He added: “This was a complete democratic process and the outcome of that democratic process was the rejection of the bills unless someone doesn’t believe in such. I don’t think government could have done better than this, nobody can guarantee whether any bill can pass or be rejected in Parliament.

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