Malawi’s Electoral Commission (EC) has played down a call for an urgent need to harmonise the country’s electoral laws to effectively hold tripartite elections next year.
The EC says with or without amending the laws, the polls will go ahead as planned.
However, one of the stakeholders in the elections, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) and a political analyst, have faulted EC’s thinking, arguing that to have smooth presidential, parliamentary and local government elections at one go, there is need to amend the electoral laws.
One of the EC commissioners, the Reverend Emmanuel Chimkwita Phiri, said although some of the crucial laws to enable the process have not been amended, the commission is confident that come 2014, the tripartite elections will go ahead.
Although Parliament amended the Constitution to have the Local Government Elections held together with the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, government is yet to table bills to amend and harmonise some of the laws that govern the three elections.
The crucial laws are the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Government Act which in some instances have different provisions on the running of elections.
During the consultative meeting, the participants expressed concern over the pace of the preparations for the tripartite elections and one of the major concerns was the amendment of the laws.
In the interview, Chimkwita Phiri also said the delay in the amendment of the laws has not affected the preparations of the elections as EC was working assuming that those laws will pass through.
Mesn publicity secretary Steve Duwa, in a separate interview Friday, argued that without harmonising the electoral laws, it would not be possible to have the tripartite elections.
“If that is the thinking, it is a surprise and we would not really to be comfortable with that stand because to properly manage the process, we need to amend the laws,” he said.
Duwa said among several areas, the two laws differ on age requirement and citizenship.
Political analyst Henry Chingaipe said although from the operational point of view one would be compelled to agree with EC, there was still need to harmonise the laws to have a smooth process that could not be challenged in court.