National

We won’t shun poll—MCP/UTM

Declare Friday day of rage

INSISTENT—Ansah

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and its electoral alliance partner, UTM, Tuesday expressed anger over Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah’s continued resolve to remain in office and administer the fresh presidential election scheduled for July 2 2020.

The alliance partners have since urged Malawians to stay away from work this Friday as a way of expressing anger over Ansah’s continued stay at Mec alongside other commissioners Linda Kunje, Mary Nkosi, Jean Mathanga, Moffat Banda, Yahaya M’madi, Elvey Mtafu, Kilion Mgawi and Clifford Baloyi.

Briefing reporters in Lilongwe yesterday, MCP and UTM officials described President Peter Mutharika’s refusal to fire the commissioners as a plot to frustrate the two parties so that they boycott the election.

UTM Publicity Secretary, Joseph Chidanti Malunga and MCP Deputy Publicity Secretary, Ezekiel Ching’oma, said they will not dance to Mec’s tune to boycott the election.

Malunga said in its judgment, the Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election, enumerated a litany of gross irregularities and questioned the competence of Ansah and her fellow commissioners to continue holding their respective offices.

“Justice Ansah and her fellow commissioners may have dismissed the groundswell of discontent amongst large sections of citizens of this country towards their leadership of the commission. Indeed, they may have treated with contempt the nationwide street protests calling for their resignation on account of their mismanagement of the election.

“However, to treat the findings of the Constitutional Court and the Public Appointments Committee (Pac) with similar contempt and blatant disregard falls well short of the standard of behaviour expected of senior public officers— particularly those charged with the solemn midwifery responsibility of giving effect to Malawians’ choice of their leadership,” Malunga said.

He went on to state that Malawi has already paid too dearly for the commission’s incompetence.

“How much more should Malawians suffer for Justice Ansah to realise that this nation shall be better off without her and her fellow commissioners clinging on to their positions? The nation, surely, must move on,” Malunga said.

The alliance partners said they have declared this Friday a day of rage when they intend to remind Mutharika and Ansah that the country is tired of them taking Malawians for granted.

“Since we cannot hold street protests due to the threat of Covid-19, we are calling on all our supporters to stay away from work on Friday. Just for one day, we must remind Mutharika and Justice Ansah that we are tired of them taking us for granted.

“They do not have power. Power is with the people of Malawi. And the people of Malawi want electoral commissioners they can trust. Let us show our rage on Friday, March 27 2020,” Malunga said.

Ching’oma added that the alliance partners have instructed their lawyers to commence a Constitutional challenge against the continued presence of Justice Ansah and the current commissioners at Mec.

He said the lawyers will be asking the Constitutional Court to determine whether it is lawful for Ansah to continue holding her position when the court and Parliament have clearly stated that she is incompetent.

“If you ever doubted Professor Mutharika’s resolve to remain in power by hook or crook, through legal or illegal means, his recent actions must have erased any such doubt. His order for the arrest of the leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition is one example. His clandestine meetings with shady characters from the Middle East are another.

“His arrogant refusal to fire Justice Jane Ansah and her fellow commissioners whose performance was found wanting by two organs of the State, the Constitutional Court and the National Assembly, is yet another example. His inexplicable refusal to assent to [electoral reforms] bills passed by the National Assembly, paving way for fresh election, is also another example,” Ching’oma said.

On Monday, Ansah vowed to manage the fresh presidential election now scheduled for July 2 2020 despite lingering moral questions on the commission’s competence for the job.

“That [the question of whether we can manage the election] is of morality. But morality versus law, we take law,” Ansah told reporters in Blantyre on Monday.

“If you ask us, how comfortable we are to manage the election then the answer is that we are comfortable and we will manage the election.”

After nullifying the May 21 presidential poll following MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima’s successful petition, the Constitutional Court ordered Pac to assess the competence of Mec commissioners to manage the fresh election and also tasked Parliament with coming up with legislation to operationalise the 50 percent-plus-one threshold of the majority winner of the presidency.

Parliament passed the bills but Mutharika refused to assent to them let alone sack the commissioners.

The President and Mec, the second respondents in the electoral case, appealed to the Supreme Court the Constitutional Court’s judgement and the case is expected to be heard next month.

Mec declared Mutharika the winner of the May 21 presidential election but the Constitutional Court established that they were marred by widespread systematic irregularities.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leaders Tuesday hosted a press conference in Lilongwe to announce that nationwide demonstrations meant to seal State residences in displeasure with Mutharika’s refusal to sign electoral reforms bills have been put on hold.

HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo, who was arrested then released on bail alongside his deputy Gift Trapence and member Reverend MacDonald Sembereka for planning to seal the State residences, said they had shelved the demonstrations due to Covid-19 threat.

Government spokesperson, Mark Botomani, Tuesday laughed off the accusations that the Democratic Progressive Party administration is keen on frustrating the opposition from participating in the fresh presidential poll.

Botomani said State House Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani ably explained the reason behind the refusal by Mutharika to assent to the electoral reforms bills as well as to approve the firing of Mec commissioners.

He said the President made it clear that the electoral reforms bills are not in conformity with the Constitution.

On his part, Mec Director of Media and Communication, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said his institution would not glorify the allegations by commenting on them.

“Mec has a platform for engagement with electoral stakeholders on issues they have about elections. We expect them to use forthcoming national elections consultative forum to raise any issue they have,” Mwafulirwa said.

Media reports on Tuesday quoted Chancellor College law lecturer, Galton Kamchedzera, as saying political parties could return to court and argue that the enforcement of the Constitutional Court judgment is being frustrated by Mutharika who is one of the parties in the election case.

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