Malawi leader under pressure to remove Kachali’s EC overseer job

Electoral stakeholders in Malawi are exerting pressure on President Joyce Banda to rescind her decision of appointing vice president Khumbo Kachali as a minister responsible for the independent Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

President Banda on Thursday appointed Kachali to look after the operations of the national electoral body a move she defends as constitutional. She even argues that it is just a shift of the responsibility from her office to the office of the vice president and that there is no sinister motive behind the move  as she had no competition and was confident of winning the 2014 polls.

But the electoral stakeholders, other civil society organizations and legal experts say the move is “suspicious” as the country is close to hold first   tripartite elections in 2014.

It’s serious

MESN, which is chaired in an acting position by rights activist Undule Mwakasungura and Steve Duwa as publicity secretary, said it was registering its disapproval of Banda’s decision to appoint Kachali to this portifolio.

“It is extremely regrettable that while fully aware of this constitutional provision, the State President went ahead to appoint Vice President as overseer of MEC…the decision clearly demonstrates the wish of the Executive to have control of a constitutionally independent body ahead of 2014 tripartite elections.”

The grouping called on Banda to “immediately reverse the decision,” and it further called upon “all political parties and aspirants for 2014 tripartite elections to reject this appointment.”

Duwa: We will not leave this issue like that

“The President need to seek advice further on this issue because the matter may look like simple as she thinks but it’s serious,” Duwa said.

Duwa said MESN are not taking the issue lying down,warning that in the event that Banda maintains the appointment, it will “mobilise key players, stakeholders and partners in the electoral process to take legal action.”

Total abuse

Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Gift Mwankhwawa, says the appointment was a “very serious threat” to MEC independence. “It must be watched very closely,” he said

Another lawyer Philip Banda described the appointment as a total abuse of the country’s democracy and a sign of rigging the 2014 elections by government.

Banda, who once saved as former President Bakili Muluzi’s  legal adviser claims that it has never happened in the country’s history that a politician who is an interested party in the elections have responsibility on the Electoral body.

He is advising President Banda to withdraw the post because it would create chaos in 2014.

“Kachali is the leader and Vice President of the ruling People’s Party which is also competing in the elections, is that not a barrier to MEC?”he questioned, adding that this is a clear evidence that the elections won’t be free and fair.

“Mec is supposed to be free and independent from any party influence hence the position must be withdrawn”, said Banda.

He added that the appointment is mockery of Malawi hard won democracy which the politicians are enjoying today.

Banda emphasized that the President should have made wide consultations before making the appointment which is interfering the people right to free and independent elections.

‘Delegation is legal’

Meanwhile, former Malawi Law Society (MLS) secretary Bright Theu has defended the appointment of Kachali to be responsible for EC, saying it it legally binding.

Theu argues that Section 76(4) ot the Constitution spells out independence of MEC that is broken down further under Section 6(1) of the EC Act.

He said the end with “provided that for purposes only of accountability the Commission shall be answerable, and report directly, to the President on the overall fulfilment of the functions and powers of the Commission”

Argues Theu: “This section designates the president as the authority to which the EC is answerable. Then section 89(6) of the Constitution, the supreme law says the powers and functions of the president shall be exercised by him or her personally or by a member of the cabinet or by a government official to whom the president has delegated such power in writing..

“This is the constitutional scheme for the electoral body. We can then debate whether we have a good scheme in terms of independence of the EC. That debate must be on the propriety of the law in making EC answerable to the president with the possibility that the president may delegate that role to VP, 2nd VP or any other member of the cabinet, as has happened now. Otherwise the delegation to [Kachali]  may arguably be within the law.”

He added: “That notwithstanding, what exactly Kachali does with that delegation may amount to interference with EC and challengeable before courts. Until such happens the delegation is legal on the face of it.”

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