Barely a week after the European Union (EU) put more pressure on Malawi to effect electoral reforms ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has added its voice on the issue.
In its 2017 third quarter forecast report for Malawi generated on September 19, the EIU has acknowledged that the Malawi Government promised to review the electoral laws ahead of the 2019 polls, but noted that delays and political bickering have plagued the reform process.
The EIU has since hinted that the opposition could capitalise on the failure by government to fully reform the electoral system as this would mean that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would like to benefit from the status quo.
Reads in part the EIU report: “The government’s failure to reform the electoral system will, therefore, be a major campaigning platform for the opposition, who will accuse the DPP of seeking to preserve the status quo from which it benefits.”
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has since vowed to hold the government to its commitment to table the proposed electoral reform bills in the coming Parliament meeting in November.
But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu has said the government’s commitment to table the bills on electoral laws reform was still there.
While acknowledging that the government had promised to review electoral laws ahead of the 2019 polls, the EIU, in its report, has noted that delays and political bickering have plagued the reform process.
The Malawi Law Commission submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs the report on the review of the electoral laws in April this year, a delay of close to three months.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has also put the electoral reforms at the top of its agenda of dialogue with the government and the DPP administration has repeatedly committed to have the proposed legislations ready before the end of the year.
Among others, the Malawi Law Commission has proposed six bills, including one on changing the electoral system from the First Past the Post system to 50+1 and amendments to allow for effective electoral dispute resolutions by delaying the swearing in of the winning presidential candidate.
In an interview yesterday, MCP deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the opposition was eagerly waiting for the government to bring to Parliament the bills that will change the electoral landscape in 2019.
He said government thwarted the opposition’s attempts to bring a Private Members bills proposing changes to the electoral laws by promising to bring similar legislation to the House.
On his part, Tembenu said government’s commitment to table the electoral laws remained unwavering.
He said: “Implementation is the sole responsibility of the Electoral Commission. I would therefore like to believe that they have started putting in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that we use the law in 2019. On its part, the government will be ready to help them discharge their constitutional mandate effectively.”
Tembenu was responding to a question on whether there will be enough time to allow for implementation of the laws in 2019 once passed.
The EU Election Follow-up Mission (EU EFM), which visited the country last week, also stressed that reforms to the electoral system were critical to free, fair and transparent elections as the country prepares for the 2019 general elections.
So far, the government has tabled the Political Parties Bill which has since been referred to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament.
The bill, among other things, metes out a fine of K10 million or a five years imprisonment if a candidate or political party contesting in an election gives out handouts.
EIU is an internationally acclaimed risk and forecast analysis of The Economist magazine whose reports companies operating in countries like Malawi use to gauge the political stability and policy trends. n