Malawian lawyer, Ambokire Salimu has taken a bold move and dragged Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to court to influence electoral law reform that would ensure elected public officers are bound by their campaign promises.
Salimu, in an individual capacity, filed for Leave for Judicial Review at the High Court in Blantyre to push for Mec to refer Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, Political Parties Act and Local Government Elections Act to the Law Commission for review to incorporate a provision that specifically calls public officers elected through universal suffrage to be legally bound by promises they make to voters.
According to the Constitution, the authority to govern the country derives from the people of Malawi; surprisingly, there is no clause in the country’s electoral laws that place any direct legal obligation on those seeking public office through ballot to fulfill promises they make to electorate during campaign period.
The court has set Thursday next week when the application for Leave for Judicial Review will be heard. If granted, the court, based on Salimu’s application, is expected to issue an ex-parte Order of interlocutory Injunction, restraining Mec from conducting elections in the country until the outcome of the Judicial Review.
Application for Judicial Review
Salimu told Nyasa Times that he decided to take the board step and push for electoral law reform, arguing as a Malawian citizen he is directly affected by the ‘status quo he seeks to reverse’.
Salimu argued that those who seek public office through elections do so, on the basis of express promises made to the people, including himself, and yet there is no statutory provision that binds them to
deliver on such premises.
“As a voter and citizen of Malawi, I give the holders of public office through elections their legal validation. It is a legitimate expectation that these public officers shall deliver on their campaign promises,” argued Salimu.
He added: “Section 6 of the Constitution expressly says that all authority to govern derives from the people yet the legislation under which the electoral commission has continued to conduct elections does not bind those seeking election to public office to their campaign promises”.
He cited the example of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which promised during campaign period to reduce presidential powers in respect of the appointment of the directors for institutions like the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), once elected.
The promise was even highlighted in the party’s printed manifesto, page 12 (paragraph xiv) and page 27 (paragraph xiii), dubbed Towards People-Centered Government.
However, the party has used its majority members in Parliament to defeat private members’ bill that sought to amend the Corrupt Practices Act to align with the exact promises the party made.
Salimu was quick to point out that the case is not against DPP but the electoral laws.
“This is not about DPP as a party, no. What happened in the National Assembly vis-avis the private members’ bill to amend the Corrupt Practices Act is an example of eventualities arising out of the lack
of express statutory prescription biding those who seek public office to be bound their campaign promises,” further argued Salimu.
Salimu said the electoral commission mandate goes beyond just holding of elections in Malawi as stipulated in Section 76 (2)(d), adding the Section places Constitutional obligation on the commission to ensure the elections in this country are, in all aspects, in compliance with the Constitution.
“It is therefore important that all laws governing elections in the country are in tandem with the ultimate constitutional provisions; the same Constitution that expressly provides in Section 6 that the
authority to govern comes from the people of Malawi,” he said.
He said it was incumbent on the electoral commission to initiate such electoral law reform that would uphold the constitutional prescription.
“In Sub-section (2) the electoral commission is required to freely communicate with government and any political party or candidate, person or organization; I therefore would like it to communicate with
the Law Commission to review and synchronize our electoral laws with especially Section 6 of the Constitution”.
In Malawi politicians have for long time being accused of failing to uphold promises made to the public in order to win votes.
Meanwhile, Mec is in the process of undertaking reforms which, among other things, will see re-demarcation of wards and constituencies, adoption and use of the biometric voter registration system in the future elections and the use 50+1 System in identifying the winner especially for president.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :