Malawi Parliament on Thursday was in a lock down as government and opposition back benchers were in a show down over an opposition sponsored electoral reforms bill.
The members of parliament went into division, an in house vote in the Chamber four times as the opposing sides of the Chamber disgreed on whether Lilongwe South MP Peter Dimba should present the bill or not. They also voted on simple procedural issues as the government side vehemently rejected the bill.
However, the opposition won the first vote and Dimba presented the bill. He told the divided parliamentarians that the bill seeks to improve the electoral process and management.
“The one who wins should win because of the votes cast not because he beat the system,” he said.
Among others, the bill is suggesting that the results should be recorded in figures or arabic numerals as well as in words to deter alterations of the results.
The bill is also suggesting the setting up of tally centres in constituencies where results would be announced soon after vote counting.
In the bill, Dimba is also suggesting results of the presidential poll should be announced after 21 days.
He also proposes increases in fines and jail terms for election offenders. For instance he says those convicted of vote buying should pay a fine of K5 million from K50000 or serve a jail term of 21 years from seven years. Dimba also says those involved in electoral offences should pay a fine of K10 million up from K500000 or 21 years in jail up from 10 years. Government chief whip Henry Mussa vehemently rejected the bill.
“This is a matter of national importance. I have never heard that a matter of such importance should be reduced to a member and his family,” he said.
He said competent state bodies, such as the Malawi Law Commission was handling the issue.
Mussa said the commission is a state body mandated to look into such issues.
He wondered how many people have been consulted on the matter, saying it could be very few.
Mussa also said the piece meal approach to Malawi Electoral Commission reforms would do injustice to Malawians.
Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu said the Malawi Law Commission was making amendments based on recommendations from election observers. However, Salima north west MP Jessie Kabwila said there was a lot of rush to pass the bill into law because of past experiences when votes were stolen or burnt.
Karonga Central MP Frank Mwenifumbo said the mover of the bill should have included the issue of 50 plus one election result system.
He also said he would have included the issue of trimming the powers of the President.
The members of parliament were still debating the bil.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :