The postponed nationwide demonstrations organised by Public Affairs Committee (PAC) to push for electoral reforms slated for December 13 following government’s turnaround to table bills in parliament took center stage in the local press on Wednesday with Malawi’s flagship daily newspaper saying the decision to call off protests has just made an oppressive President Peter Mutharika’s regime “even stronger.”
Just a day before the nationwide protests against governments, PAC chairperson Felix Chingota told a news conference in Lilongwe that the decision to suspend was made at a three-hour meeting the faith-based organisation held in the capital on Monday night.
He said the board meeting focused on whether to proceed with the civil action after government circulated what is largely considered as an adulterated Electoral Reforms bill as Mutharika’s cabinet has decided to extend the contentious 50+1 provision—which proposes a run-off when the winning presidential candidate fails to scoop at least half of the votes cast—to members of Parliament (MPs) and councillorship elections.
In its editorial on Wednesday, the Daily Times newspaper, said Malawians were willing to join in the “grand peaceful march” to express national discontentment as the protests would have an extension of issues to highlight including electricity crisis and an array of governance issues, including calls for an end to ruling party’s monopoly of the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
The paper saidthe faith-based organisation seem to have forgotten that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government it is putting faith in has “a way of being crooked” and has no respects for pacts.
Evidence, the paper said, is the “butchered” piece of legislation on electoral system that government has circulated in Parliament.
The daily said PAC “must not be naive” to start believing that the DPP is an honest party and wants to see the electoral reforms bills passed as recommended by the special Law Commission.
“PAC will realise soon that it has, advertently or not, been part of the scheme to kill Malawians’ dreams of having perfect electoral laws as well as a chance to epress their disillusionment,” reads the editorial.
It noted that the quasi-religious oragnaisation has found “ a partner in the political devil.”
The paper says PAC need to have a serious “soul searching” before it slips into oblivion, saying they are at pains to believe the discourse in some quarters that the governance watchdog is steadily losing credence and relevance.
The paper lead story headlined ‘ PAC faulted’ with sub titles: ‘Cancels demonstrations’ and ‘Govt complied –PAC’
But political scientist Ernest Thindwa based at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba said the purpose of the protests was ro force government table the electoral reforms bills and now that the Bills are in Parliament, PAC is right to cancel the demonstrations.
“I want to believe the threat of demonstrations has compelled the government to table the bills,” Thindwa said.
During the news conference, Chingota who was accompanied by PAC executive committee members and some board members, said the body will keep monitoring events in the National Assembly.
He said PAC may “reignite” the calls for demonstrations if government stops the tabling of the bills.
“Members took time to examine the above requests and noted that 5 out 6 bills have been debated this week. It was however observed that the government brought some new changes to the bills, especially on 50+1 which now extends to MPs and Councillors. We note this was not part of the Law Commission report.
“We further observe that the Local Government Act reforms have not reached Parliament. The latter for us still remains crucial to improvement of service delivery in the country. The approach taken by government to introduce changes to the bills that were not anticipated demonstrates bad intention on their part,” Chingota told journalists.
Several churches including the influential Catholic church, Anglican Church, CCAP, Malawi Council of Churches and civil society groups gave their full support to PAC protests.
The proposed laws drew the wrath of civil society players who feel the Executive deliberately veered off from the recommendations of the law commission to restrict the 50+1 clause to the presidential race only.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :