Parliament’s rejection of an electoral reform bill – Constitutional Amendment – that would have facilitated the June 23 2020 voting and modalities for holding of a fresh presidential election will essentially make it not legally possible to hold the polls on the said date, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka has said.
Msaka on Wednesday tabled government bill number 11, 2020, Constitutional amendment of Section 80 of the Constitution to facilitate fresh election date on June 23 as per the court order.
But opposition vehemently rejected the Bill saying the House passed a motion to endorse June 23 as polling date through a private member’s motion on Tuesday.
Lilongwe City West MP George Zulu, standing on a Point of Order, said it was not right for the minister to bring the bills when the date was already decided.
However, the bill was rejected because the Bill failed to garner the required two thirds majority vote to pass any Constitutional Amendment.
For the 173 members which were present and voted; 88 members said yes to a motion to waive the 28-day notice to have the Minister of Justice to table the Constitutional Amendment bill (section 80), 81 said no while 20 were absent.
Immediately after the bill was rejected MPs from the government side started chanting that “the opposition has said NO to fresh elections.”
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Msaka said the bill wanted to amend Section 80 (1) on the Constitution to provide for fresh presidential elections.
As it reads now the said section stipulates that Presidential Election must be held alongside Parliamentary elections.
“The only authority that can permit presidential elections to be held at any other time is the Constitution itself,” said Msaka.
“No other authority can provide for elections to be held at a different time from Parliamentary elections,” he added.
Justice Minister said the Constitution needed to be amended to provide for the fresh elections- a situation that was never foreseen from annulled elections.
He said where the opposition want June 23, government Bill provided the same date June 23 in the amendment.
“It is puzzling that they did not support the Bill,” said Msaka.
He added: “The opposition is hell-bent on continuing with the situation of uncertainty.”
Msaka said an election of the President must be; Constitutional, credible, free and fair.
“If any of these is absent we will soon find ourselves in the same position where we are now. Challenged election,” he explained.
Technically, this means that there is no date in the Constitution for the fresh presidential election (and a run-off in case no candidate secures 50+1 majority of the votes) as per the February 3 2020 order of the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities and upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The court asked Parliament to make appropriate provisions in the law to facilitate the holding of a fresh election and provision for a run-off in the event that no candidate secures the 50-plus-one majority.
The rejected Bill also propose that MPs decide between simple majority (first past the post) and the 50-percent-plus-one majority in determining the winner, a proposal which sharply contradicts the recent interpretation of majority by the Constitutional Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
The court ordered a fresh election within 150 days which expires on July 3.
While winding up debate on the rejected bill, Msaka mocked the opposition saying they only win elections in court and not on the ballot.
Meanwhile, fresh election faces several legal and logistical challenges, including enabling laws and printing of ballot papers which is yet to be sanctioned.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :