Malawi likely to have more political parties towards 2014

The number of political parties is expected to keep rising as the country prepares to hold the fifth general election in 2014 if the country’s laws governing the official establishment of political parties are not reviewed, experts have warned.

The laws which were hurriedly passed in 1993 to usher in the democratic dispensation through the holding of multiparty elections which were deemed illegal during the Malawi Congress Party rule, according to experts do not have stringent measures that can control any influx of Political parties.

The current political parties registration and regulation act provides four requirements to register a political party which the Malawi Law Society say are not strict enough to control the number of political parties.

According to chapter 2 of the political parties registration and regulation act political entities can be registered if they have not less than 100 registered members, if they submit a written application to the registrar specifying the name of the party.

Chibambo: Inactive parties should be deregistered

The application should also be accompanied by two copies of the constitution, rules and manifesto of the party, that are duly certified by party leaders, particulars of party offices, a list giving the names and addresses of the leader and other office bearers of the party, a list giving the names and addresses of not less than 100 registered members of the party.

However, despite being a right to form a political party according to MLS acting secretary Allan Muhome said there is need to revisit the act to incorporate a fee upon party registration and other measures unlike the ones enshrined during formation of the act that are not adhesive enough.

“The act needs to be amended not only to provide for financial requirements at the establishment of the party but also in the course of its existence and exit from the political arena. This will promote accountability and transparency as well as prevent abuse of public resources.

“Since the right to form and be a member of a political grouping is a constitutional right; its limitation must also comply with the constitution and on the other hand, legally the number of political parties may be controlled by restrictive registration procedures such as financial requirements, number of membership, non academic legal qualifications of leaders,” said Muhome in his response to a questionnaire.

However, Petra’s Kamuzu Chibambo differed with Muhome saying the powers vested in the registrar’s office are not enough to regulate the establishment of other parties.

“Much as we need more political parties we should also look at which parties are active on the ground and how the registrar will control them hence the need to give him more powers,” said Chiwambo who is a lawyer by profession.

On calls by some commentators that powers given to the register to deregister political parties be increased to ensure seriousness in those registering political entities Muhome said he needed to verify with records at the registrar adding that the act already provides powers to deregister parties following proper procedures.

Assistant registrar of political parties Joseph Chintolo said there are grounds through which parties can be deregistered by the office.

“The register’s office is provided with discretionally powers to cancel political party registration if it is not active on the ground, at the request of the party made and signed by the office bearers of the party.

“And also upon proof to the satisfaction of the Registrar that  the registration of the party has been obtained by fraud or mistake, the party has a purpose or object which are unlawful, or the number of registered members of the party has fallen below 100 and if the Registrar is satisfied that the party has ceased to exist.”

Chintolo disclosed that so far no party has been deregistered on grounds that they ceased to exist on the ground but upon request of the members adding that a 21 day notice is given to members before deregistration.

He concurred with Mohome that the registrations act needs to be amended for it to suit the ever changing political environment.

All efforts to talk to justice and constitution affairs Minister Ralph Kasambara failed as on several attempts his phone went unanswered.

In the first general election in 1961, four parties contested including Christian Liberation Party, UCP, UFP and Malawi Congress Party (MCP). As Malawi was going into dictatorship under Hastings Kamuzu Banda after independence in 1964, the existent of political parties was apart from the ruling MCP.

With only 21 month before the next parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 the number of political parties keeps rising with the latest being Davis Katsonga’s ‘Chipani cha Fuko’ registered on May 8 this year.

The country has over 45 registered political parties.

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