Government legislators yesterday opposed amendments to the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) which, if ratified, will see changes being introduced to counting and management of election results.
The members of Parliament (MP) from the government benches argued that making laws should be left to the Malawi Law Commission (MLC).
On several attempts, the government side called for a roll call vote (division) to stop the mover of the Bill, Lilongwe
South MP Peter Dimba (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), from making a second reading which summarises the contents of a bill prior to debate.
However, a motion to extend time beyond 5pm to allow continuation of the debate thwarted government attempts to have the Bill dismissed at second reading before it could possibly be referred to a committee.
Fluctuating numbers between the government and opposition sides on the two divisions in the afternoon put them at par.
By 3pm, the government side emerged with 84 votes against 79 for the opposition, which was enough assurance that the Bill would be defeated.
But speaking when he tabled the Bill, Dimba said when passed, the Bill would ensure that every vote cast is properly accounted for.
However, government chief whip Henry Mussa said electoral reforms were an issue of national importance and could not be passed without consulting a large number of Malawians.
“While it may be a good Bill, we have institutions that are charged with those kind reforms. How many people has the member consulted on the Bill? We cannot leave it to a member and his family,” Mussa said.
Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu asked for patience on the electoral reforms process which he said would be completed on March 31 2017.
“The question is how much consultation has gone into the Bill? Who else apart from the sector they are representing here has given input? This Bill risks being representative of sectoral desires,” he said.
However, Nkhata Bay Central MP Ralph Mhone (People’s Party-PP) said it is unfortunate that some members do not believe the House has powers to introduce and amend laws when Section 8 of the Constitution mandates Parliament with the duty of enacting laws.
“There is something wrong that happened on 20 May 2014 in the administration of elections and the Bill is trying to address that. These amendments are simple amendments,” Mhone said.
Several government MPs, who contributed to the Bill, opposed it on the basis that MLC was working on a draft Bill of amendments after the electoral reform process.
The Bill introduces a new section, Section 93 (2) which states that “all recordings in relation to the number of votes, just voters and ballot papers shall be recorded in both Arabic numerals and words” to deter alteration of results at the district tally centre where results from constituencies are tallied.
To ensure that the correct results reach the district tally centre, the Bill seeks to establish constituency tally centres by deleting the words ‘polling station’ from Sections 94 and 95 of the PPEA and substituting them with ‘constituency tally centre.’
According to Dimba, the constituency tally centre will be where all results from the polling centres will be tallied.
Debate on the Bill continues next Thursday.