Call to postpone Malawi elections to allow referendum

A file political grouping, African Nyasaland Party (ANP), has asked the authorities Friday to put off tripartite elections scheduled for May 20, citing inconsistencies in voter registration and constitutional issues.

ANP president Bishop Kayira Bwanaissa Kaponda Karonga, born Lawrence Sichinga, through lawyers Jivason Kazipatike has written MEC demanding the elections be postponed “to allow for a referendum on a number of issues and to allow for constitutional order to prevail in the jurisdiction before the elections are conducted.”

ANP are not contesting the polls as they did not file nominations and they claim they boycotted the presentation to Electoral Commission of nomination papers for the position of President because they avidly felt that the forthcoming elections will not be free and fair before a number of issues are addressed through referendum and before constitutional order prevails in the country.

Sichinga: Elections should be postponed
Bwanaisa: Elections should be postponed

ANP argues that  the Electoral Commission should have ensured that wherever Malawi has embassies, eligible persons who were born or are ordinarily resident in a constituency in Malawi be allowed to register as voters at their nearest embassies to vote for candidates contesting in the tripartite elections.

“Our client verily believes that the conduct of the Electoral Commission in not extending voter registration exercise to eligible persons residing outside the jurisdiction through embassies is discriminatory to those eligible persons. Restricting voter registration to only those actually resident in Malawi is against the spirit of the Constitution and such conduct is clearly unconstitutional,” the lawyers penned MEC.

ANP wants elections to be postponed to allow for registration of voters in the diaspora.

“If the Electoral Commission is of the view that such discrimination was justifiable under the laws, that which is not the case, our client still demands that the elections should be postponed to allow for the amendment of such discriminatory laws as over 5 million eligible voters in the United Kingdom, Republic of South Africa, the United States of America and other countries have been excluded.”

ANP also argued that MEC is not prepared to hold elections.

“For example, the Electoral Commission has suspended voter’s roll inspection, an exercise that is provided for under section 31 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act yet the voters’ roll is said to be in a huge mess.

“Mindful that the electoral calendar for these activities was gazetted, breach of the calendar will inevitably result in the Electoral Commission delivering elections which are compromised, and not free and fair. The elections will further be compromised by the fact of lack of resources which your Mr. Willie Karonga admitted in the Daily Times of 26th March, 2014, stating that the Electoral Commission has no capacity to even deliver resources for verification of voter’s roll in the Northern Region among other places.”

ANP said if MEC has failed to carry out voters’ roll verification exercise, then it cannot carry out its obligation to deliver a free and fair election therefore calls for postponement of the polls “to avoid chaos”.

In addition to criticism over voter lists, the ANP has accused MEC of “loose behaviour” in gracing Presidential Running mates Debates which involve only four main political parties.

“The Electoral Commission as a referee should not have endorsed these debates in whatever manner. In all fairness, the Electoral Commission should have stopped the selection of only four parties in such debates, so that all political parties would have equal access to the electorate. The conduct of the Electoral Commission is in this regard discriminatory,” ANP argues.

MEC has also been accused of inaction over the Goliati violence and the assault of aide to opposition DPP president at Mount Soche Hotel.

On the call for a referendum ANP is of the view that issues of governance, issues of sections 64 (recall provision), 65 (anti-defection provision) and 86 (impeachment provision) of the Constitution, and laws on asset declaration should first be reviewed at a National Consultative Conference and subsequently amended.

“It is also important to ensure that the constitutional provisions are supported by enabling laws that would be easily applicable to officials who win the elections.”

ANP also noted that MEC accepted nominations of candidates who were Members of Parliament before Parliament was dissolved, saying MPs are clearly public officers and that they accepted nominations from “ineligible persons.”

The party wants the nomination process to be declared null and void to avoid perpetuating “illegality and unconstitutionality.”

ANP has told MEC that it is prepared to obtain an order of injunction stopping the conduct of the Tripartite Elections until the issues of national importance are addressed.

The letter has also been copied to President Joyce Banda and is asking her to call for a Referendum to be conducted on or about the 20th of May, 2014 so that the Tripartite Elections on 2nd July, 2014.

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