MEC downplays ‘Constitution Crisis’ fear ahead of nomination process: Malawi polls

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says sitting parliamentarians need not to resign to be nominated for May 20 Parliamentary elections.

There was hot debate and strong fear on social media that the nation could face a “Constitution crisis” by conducting the nomination process before dissolution of the National Assembly.

In previous general elections, the Commission conducted nomination process after the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Mwafulirwa: MEC spokesman says  MPs should not resign
Mwafulirwa: MEC spokesman says MPs should not resign

According to Section 67(1) of the Republican Constitution the “National Assembly shall stand dissolved on the 20th of March in the fifth year after its election, and the polling day for the general elections for the next National Assembly shall be the Tuesday in the third week of May that year.”

But this time around, nomination process starts earlier before the dissolution of the National Assembly, a development that has brought confusion and debate among some Malawians.

Apparently, this debate ensued after United Democratic Front (UDF) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Presidential candidates resigned as Members of Parliament for them to qualify for nomination as candidates for Presidential Elections.

Section 80(7e) says “No person shall be eligible for nomination as a candidate for election as President or First Vice-President or for appointment as first Vice-President or Second Vice-President if that person is the holder of a public office or a member of Parliament, unless that person first resigns.”

While Section 51(2e) states that “no person shall be qualified to be nominated or elected as a member of Parliament who holds, or acts in, any public office or appointment, except where this Constitution provides that a person shall not be disqualified from standing for election solely on account of holding that office or appointment or where that person resigns from that office in order to stand;”

Radio personality, Deus Sandram wrote on his Facebook page, “I foresee a “Constitutional Crisis”- Section 80, 81, 51 and 67 are in serious contrast. Constitutionally, Parliament is supposed to be dissolved on 20th March, but at the same time, one cannot be nominated for the parliamentary race if he/she is still holding a public office

“Literal translation simply means all sitting MPs cannot be nominated now, unless they resign. MEC was supposed to start the process of nomination only after 20th March. Am really confused amzanga odziwa malamulo tithandizeni.”

Likewise, Wonder Msiska, Station Manager for Star Radio, said “I am also having problems to  comprehend the same bwana Deus.”

While Phrank Mlandu said he now likes the Constitution of Malawi than any novel because there a lot of “go easy” and “come easy” sections which needs to be fully revised to match today’s technology.

But when asked his position as regards to this debate, the Commission’s spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said sitting parliamentarians are not affected, but pointed out that the electoral body will still follow the laid down eligibility criteria which is in accordance with Constitution.

Meanwhile, some people are also of the view that President Joyce Banda should resign to fulfil constitutional obligations ahead of presentation of nomination papers for Presidential candidates next week.

However, according to Section 88, the office of President is not a public office and just like the office of First Vice-President, can never be vacant.

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