A massive nationwide demonstration planned for Wednesday December 13 to press Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika totable of the six Electoral Reforms Bills has been put on hold after government circulated all pieces of legislation among members of Parliament (MPs).
Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a multi-faith human rights, democracy and accountability watchdog, says the demonstrations will not take place on Wednesday because government has shown goodwill on the electoral reforms bills and want to give them chance to table them and be debated in Parliament, stressing that mass action is still on the table. It’s not over yet.
“We have decided to postpone the demonstrations following PAC Board of Trustees, representative of mother bodies and executive committee which met yesterday in Lilongwe to discuss the state of affairs as regards the electoral and local government reforms in parliament,” PAC chairperson Reverend Dr Felix Chingota told a news conference on Tuesday
“We further examined a report on the updates on the planned peaceful marches in the four cities and the rest of the 24 districts of the country. We also recalled what we presented in the petition delivered to the Head of State and Speaker of Parliament,” he added
He however said they are not pleased that government has rejected several recommendations of the Special Law Commission on Electoral Reforms and introduced new provisions, including extension of the 50+1 majority to the election of members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors.
“Be warned that ignoring the 50%+1 [on presidential vote] is a recipe for disaster as we approach the forthcoming 2019 tripartite elections,” said Chingota.
PAC executive director Robert Phiri said the demonstrations were about the tabling of the six Electoral Reforms Bills and that the organisers of the protests would want to observe how things will unfold in the House.
He said PAC has been pushing for the tabling of all the Electoral Reforms Bills as a package following government’s reluctance to take the pieces of legislation to Parliament for debate.
On Monday, government circulated the contentious 50 percent plus one Bill, but after Cabinet made modifications to it so that it also applies to MPs and councillors.
Phiri expressed concern with the development saying Cabinet has now made a “new formulation of the Bill” and not the one recommended by the Special Law Commission.
The proposed bill of the Law Commission had suggested that results of the presidential election be determined when the candidate for presidency obtains the majority of more than 50 percent while the winner for election of MP, woman MP and councillor be determined when a candidate obtains the greatest number of valid votes cast at the poll.
government has also rejected the proposal for introduction of 28 district constituencies where only women candidates would be allowed to contest as MPs.
The Special Law Commission had recommended deleting Section 62 (1) of the Constitution on composition of the National Assembly to include “(b) each district as a single member constituency in which only women shall compete as candidates”.
This was proposed to enhance women participation in politics as well as ensuring that a vulnerable group is represented in Parliament, as Parliaments of Uganda and Lesotho have adopted.
The government has also limited the participation of people who have been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude as they will no longer be eligible to contest.
The current Section 51(c) and (g) states that provided seven years have elapsed, a person once convicted would be eligible.
He said if the Bills will be suffocated, they would take to the streets in a peaceful demonstration that will include other issues of governance concerns.
The turnout was expected to be good as there had been positive response from nearly all quarters of the society since the influential quasi-religious body announced its intention to hold the nationwide demonstrations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :