President Peter Mutharika has appointed a leaner Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) team headed by High Court Judge Chifundo Kachale and retained two commissioners from the immediate past cohort declared incompetent by the courts.
In the seven-member commission, the President has retained his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) representatives Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje from the previous embattled commission that presided over the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections whose presidential election was nullified over irregularities.
Besides Kunje and Mathanga from the previous nine-member team, Mutharika’s DPP also has private practice lawyer Arthur Nathuru—who previously served at MEC on United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket.
But Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steven Duwa, another appointee, said last evening he was not aware which party nominated him.
He said: “I don’t know which party I am representing because I have just been appointed.”
Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the only other party represented in Parliament which qualified to nominate commissioners for attaining at least 10 percent representation, has two representatives in the commission, namely former Nkhotakota South legislator Olivia Liwewe and corporate governance expert Anthony Mukumbwa.
MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali confirmed that Liwewe and Mukumbwa were among the party’s three nominees.
But he expressed concern with Mutharika’s decision to retain Mathanga and Kunje from the team a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and seven judges of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal as well as Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee declared incompetent.
Said Munthali: “Why retain people whom the courts said were incompetent? Mutharika has just shown that he does not respect the courts.”
But on the new chairperson, he said his party has “very high regard for Justice
Efforts to get DPP’s reaction proved futile as party spokesperson Nicholas Dausi and secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey could not be reached last night.
In a statement announcing the appointments, Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara said the President has appointed the new commissioners “in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by Section 75 of the Constitution as read with Section 4 of the Electoral Commission [Amendment] Act of 2018”.
The term of office for the previous commissioners expired on June 5 while the chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, resigned from her position “in respect of the Supreme Court judgement” that found the performance of her team wanting. Her term was due to expire in October.
Malawi is scheduled to hold fresh presidential election by within 150 days expiring on July 3.