There was a sense of disquiet as members of Parliament (MPs) sealed their own fates and reluctantly passed a Bill that would prohibit giving handouts to entice voters before elections.
This followed government’s willingness to go with the earlier provision of banning handouts throughout the election cycle as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said an issue-based campaign would attract more candidates to contest.
The Bill also seeks to compel political parties to disclose to the Registrar of Political Parties sources of party financing and any donations, K1 million and above from individuals and K2 million and above from companies.
Any political party that fails to participate in two consecutive elections, 10 years and does not conduct a convention, would be struck off the register of political parties, the Bill provides.
The Bill has passed with several amendments among them additional clauses and sub-clauses that would ensure that not only candidates, but bodies would be barred from distributing any form of handouts.
Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said initially, the committee recommended that banning handouts should only be limited to the campaign period because of the mention of candidates, who, by definition, are those whose nominations have been endorsed by the Malawi Electoral Commission.
Attempts by some members to prevent this clause from passing by arguing that a one day notice was not provided on the change to the amendment were quelled.
Political parties will also be compelled to comply with the Gender Equality Act requirement of 60/40 composition when they appoint membership of party organs and committees.
However, as a compromise, Parliament passed an introduction of a schedule which outlines transactions which would not constitute handouts including campaign materials, meals and entertainment for the candidate’s entourage.
An amendment to clause 8 (3) that the removal of the Registrar of Political Parties should be subject to confirmation by the Public Appointments Committee, however, did not receive support of most members, especially the government side as the minister was against the idea.
Tembenu said by law, the appointee should be given powers to remove the appointed person. n