Parliament on Wednesday deliberated two of the six Bills of the Electoral Reforms Bill which the Malawi Law Commission recommended but passed one and referred the other to Legal Affairs Committee for further scrutiny.
The House passed the Referendum Bill which now is a legislation on how to conduct a referendum as there was not law on that. It will now provide the way how to hold a referendum with an indication of which matters would be subject to a vote, restrictions and the conduct of sucha referendum.
During debate on the Referendum Bill several opposition members contributing asked for amendments and that it should include the proposed clause that the President proclaim a referendum only after submission of a petition to him/her signed by not less than 500 000 registered voters.
The proposal floated by Lilongwe North East member of Parliament (MP) Maxwell Thyolera (Malawi Congress Party –MCP) was welcomed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, who, however, preferred the figure ti be at 1 mmillion registered voters.
“ I would be comfortable if the threshold was raised to more than that,” said Tembenu, arguing that Malawi has a growing population.
And when the second deputy speaker Clement Chiwaya, presiding, asked for voice votes for an amendment to reflect 1 million as number of signatories to a petition to the President, the “ayes” did not necessarily have it and opposition thought the result was unclear at best.
Then division vote was called where 92 voted yes for no amendment against 55 votes.
The chair told the MPs that the Bill passed without amendment.
Parliament , however, rejected to pass the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill with opposition feeling government has butchered what was proposed by the Special Law Commission.
The Special Lae Commission recommended the enactment of the Elections Management Fund to ensure Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is financially autonomous.
It also proposed changes in the appointment of the MEC chairperson as well as composition of the commissioners.
Opposition were not comfortable with Chief Secretary to government’s role to MEC operations that the head of civil service would form part of the selection panel for the appointment of commissioners.
Including the Chief Secretary in the selection panel of commissioners would defeat the purpose of the recommendation by the Law Commission, the opposition argued.
Mzimba North legislator Agnress Nyalonje (Peoples Party –PP) said the operational independence of MEC could not be assured when the Executive was involved in the process of selecting commissioners,
But Tembenu said Chief Secretary as head of the public service was better placed to be the one responsible.
“The Chief Secretary has a role to play in the administrative affairs of the Electoral Commission,” said Tembenu.
The House agreed the Bill be sent to Legal Affairs Committee for further scrutiny.
The Law Commission recommended the following Bills collectively called Electoral Reforms Bills: Constitution (Amendment), Electoral Commission (Amendment), Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) and Local Government Elections Act, Assumption of the Office of President (Transitional Arrangement) and Referendum.
The most contentious of the Bills relate to the amendment of Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the PPE Act to provide for a change of the electoral system from a simple majority to a majority of more than 50 percent in the presidential race.
The Assumption of the Office of President (Transitional Arrangement) proposes amendment to the Constitution to allow that swearing in of President and Vice-President be done after 30 days not within 30 days as prescribed in Section 81 (3) of the Constitution.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :