A local governance analyst has welcomed the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) 6-days ultimatum directed to President Peter Mutharika and Parliament to act on the electoral reforms as proposed by the Special Law Commission on the review of electoral laws.
The influential quasi-religious group joined by some key civil society leaders and citizens of Malawi on Thursday petitioned the Executive and Parliament to table electoral and local government bills by 29th November 2017.
“We, therefore, appeal to Your Honor, as Head of Legislative arm of Government to have Electoral and Local Government Act Reforms Bills tabled, debated and passed now rather than later. You may wish to know that should Government fail to table the reforms Bills by 29th November, 2017, PAC will have no any other option but swiftly hold a peaceful march nationwide,” reads part of PAC’s petition addressed to the Speaker of National Assembly .
Similarly, PAC partly petitioned President Mutharika as follows:
“We, the undersigned, members of PAC Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, Representatives of Mother Bodies and Interest Groups petition your good Office to do the following…Ensure that Electoral Act Reforms Bill, including the 50%+1 are tabled, debated and passed during the current sitting of Parliament. Be warned that ignoring the 50%+1 is a recipe for disaster as we approach the forthcoming 2019 tripartite elections… You may wish to know that should Government fail to table the reforms Bills by 29th November, 2017, PAC will have no any other option but swiftly hold a peaceful march nationwide”.
However, responding to a Nyasa Times questionnaire as to whether PAC’s actions were justified, a Lilongwe-based governance analyst Makhumbo Munthali said the need for government and Parliament to table and enact the electoral reforms was time-bound hence governance watchdog was right to push for such ultimatums.
“It has to be said from the very onset that government through the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu SC and then the Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa already made commitments earlier during their engagement with PAC to table these Bills in the current November sitting. As such PAC’s reminder to government to honour its pledge cannot be treated as unrealistic as government knew beforehand that this is feasible,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.
However, it is the missing of electoral bills in both the President’s address and government’s reported list of Bills to be tabled in the current sitting which has raised more suspicion amongst Malawians with many perceiving this an act of betrayal of public trust.
“ All this coupled by the fact that most of the electoral reforms are time-bound, that is they have to be tabled, debated and enacted now or never in view of 2019 elections, PAC is duty-bound as the voice of the voiceless to give such ultimatums,” said Munthali, a former national secretary of the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission of Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) and also Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)
Munthali cited the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, the Elections Management Fund Bill, and the Assumption of Office of President (Transitional Arrangements) Bill as some of the key elections Bill that were time-bound to be tabled, debated and enacted in the current November sitting.
The Electoral Reforms Bills include an amendment of Section 80(2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act proposing 50+1 percent majority in presidential election and an amendment of Section 81 (3) of the Constitution for swearing-in of the President and Vice-President to be done after 30 days.
“If we can have those electoral reform areas requiring legislation enacted in the current sitting, this means various stakeholders including electoral commission, government, civil society and development partners can have at least a full year to plan in advance on how to successfully carryout various electoral related activities likecivic education in readiness of the 2019 Tripartite elections,” said Munthali.
Munthali also downplayed fears from some ruling DPP’s sympathisers that the proposed 50+1 electoral system was targeting the current ruling party.
“This is not true…. Firstly, the central argument of the 50+1 electoral system is to enhance legitimacy to govern where the power to govern is derived from the majority of the people. It raises serious legitimacy concerns where you have a leader who was rejected by 64% of the voting population. How can such a leader claim to have been mandated by the people to govern? Secondly, the calls for a 50+1 electoral system can be traced to the 2006/2007 Law Commission conference where after nationwide consultations the Commission recommended for this system.
“Besides, the “CHRR’s 20 months assessment of Joyce Banda: missed opportunity to reclaim public trust” report published prior to 2014 elections recommended the Joyce Banda administration to act on the 50+1 electoral system. All this coupled by the unwavering efforts by the Law Commission PAC and MESN to have the system in place it is clear that 50+1 system is there not to serve political interest but rather address legitimacy concerns. So, instead of fighting 50+1 electoral system political parties like DPP should rededicate their efforts in turning around the political and economic situation in the country in order to earn public trust and confidence to necessitate them in attaining the 50+1 threshold in the very first round.”
The PAC decision to petition the President and the Speaker coincided with threats by leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera to boycott National Assembly proceedings if the proposed laws are not taken to Parliament.
Two civil society organisations—Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep)—are also lobbying members of Parliament to boycott the proceedings.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :