Malawi is developing electoral reform laws which, i f passed by Parliament, will lead to major changes in governing presidential transition arrangements, allow diaspora and electronic voting and change the composition of the electoral body.
Malawi Elec t o r a l Commission (MEC) and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) are leading the effort as part of a task force that has drawn on the work of past Law Commissions. The task force has also taken on board recommendations of the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election.
The proposed changes also seek to provide more clarity on issues, including provisions on what happens if a President-elect or Vice- President-elect dies before taking oath of office and formalising renaming the legal name of the Electoral Commission to Malawi Electoral Commission. Further, the proposed changes seek to make voting day a public holiday.
The changes are also based on a CMD presentation at a civil society review meeting organised by the National Action Platform (NAP) and are categorised in three ‘baskets’ based on the complexities of enacting each law.
To date, three bills have been submitted to Ministry of Justice for review. They are Constitutional Amendment Bill to change the name of MEC in the Constitution, Electoral Commission Act (Amendment) Bill to change the name of MEC in the Act and the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill to harmonise all electoral laws.
The CMD presentation indicated that a fourth bill was prepared, the Transition Bill, but the task force felt this should be thrown in the second basket of laws deemed more complex.
In separate interviews, both CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani and Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe confirmed the planned tabling of Bills on the electoral reforms.
Silungwe said: “Now all Bills will be tabled in June. It will be a comprehensive set of Bills.”
On his part, Tenthani said the process traces its origins to the 2004-2007 constitutional review meeting which was followed up in 2014 by a similar task force co-chaired by Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) and MEC before the Law Commission produced a comprehensive report in March 2017.
He also confirmed that some of the Bills to be tabled include laws previously tabled in Parliament in December 2018, but were shot down
Tenthani said: “The National Task Force on Electoral Reforms is
building on the previous efforts now co-chaired by CMD and MEC. building on the previous
“ The first baske t includes laws which are administrative, managerial and technical reforms that enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the electoral process; and are politically non-controversial.
“The second basket includes reforms that introduce significant marginal changes; a little controversial and requiring some lobbying and advocacy. The third basket has reforms that seek to fundamentally
change key elements of the electoral system and electoral process.”
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa also confirmed that the electoral body was involved in the process.
“I can confirm that MEC has been involved in the task force,” he said.
On e o f th e ke y outstanding Bills yet to be passed by Parliament from the recommendations of the Constitutional Court ruling is on 50 percent-plus-one vote to include facilitating the holding of a re-run in case no candidate amasses the prescribed threshold.