Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has concluded reviewing the Electoral Commission Act (Amendment) Bill and is ready to take it back to Parliament for re-tabling during the mid-year Budget Review meeting scheduled to begin today in Lilongwe.
During the review process, among others the committee consulted several stakeholders, including the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), Malawi Law Society (MLS) and Public Affairs Committee (PAC).
The Bill which, among others, seeks to provide for a selection panel for candidates for the appointment of commissioners to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), was referred to the committee during the previous meeting of Parliament last December.
It was referred to the committee after opposition legislators noted that it gives the President powers to appoint the commissioners, a development the legislators said affected management of the electoral process.
In an interview yesterday, the committee’s chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said the Bill would be re-tabled during the meeting once the committee adopts the report from the consultations.
However, Thyolera indicated that most stakeholders recommended that to ensure MEC’s independence, political parties should still be involved in the selection process of the commissioners, after the provision was initially removed.
He said: “We anticipate that in the course of the meeting, the committee will convene to adopt the report and then report to the plenary. Thereafter, we will inform the leadership of the House that we are ready so that it can be included on the order paper.”
The chairperson also said the committee was satisfied with the stakeholders’ input which was unanimous as they made almost similar suggestions as regards the provisions in the Bill.
Speaking last Tuesday after meeting MLS at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, Thyolera said it was worrisome and unfair to entrust all the powers in appointing the commissioners in the President.
On his part, Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa said a selection panel for the commissioners was a better option as it would ensure the independence of the electoral body.
PAC had been championing the tabling of the Electoral Reforms Bills last year. n