- …wants APM to sign electoral Bills
Pressure is mounting on President Peter Mutharika to assent to Electoral Bills recently passed in Parliament, with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) threatening to shut down State residences if no action is taken soon.
The group also said they expect the President to fire the current Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners and appoint a new commission to manage upcoming presidential election.
Speaking to the media in Lilongwe on Friday, senior members of HRDC and Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi) said Malawians are counting down to fresh elections scheduled for May 19 this year and expect nothing.
HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the group has planned March 25as the date for the shutdown of State Houses if Mutharika is not going to act on the Bills and appoint new MEC commissioners.
He said: “Parliament complied with the Constitutional Court order and it waved some important issues to concentrate on passing the Electoral Bills. It also assessed the competence of commissioners
[as ordered by the ConCourt]
. A report was sent to the President recommending the removal of MEC commissioners, but up to now nothing has been done.
“If the President will not take any action on these matters by March 25, we will mobilise 5 million people to shut all State residences.”
On February 3, the High Court sitting in Lilongwe as the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) annulled the presidential election, saying they were marred by a plethora of irregularities. The court therefore ordered Parliament to make provisions for holding of fresh presidential election within 150 days.
Last week Parliament passed the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Amendment Bill which has set fresh elections to be held on May 19. The Bill also provides for the holding a run-off election 30 days later if no candidate gets 50%+1 of the votes cast.
Mtambo, flanked by his deputy Gift Trapence and executive member McDonald Sembereka took turns questioning President Mutharika’s delay to assent to the Electoral Bills and his reluctance to appoint new commissioners as recommended by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament.
Cdedi interim executive director Silvester Namiwa, a former State House official who resigned last year ahead of May 21 polls, said President Mutharika should not be playing a dill-dallying game with the Bills as the fresh election is fast approaching.
“We are concerned with the snail’s pace at which progress is being registered, in-spite of the fact that we are only days away from the presidential polls.
“This slow progress can only be attributed primarily to President Peter Mutharika’s handling of serious matters of national interest,” Namiwa said.
In an interview, State House and presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalirani said the President is still scrutinising the Bills.
“Scrutinising the Bills is within the required 21 days period for assenting to such Bills,” he said.
However, in an interview Mtambo argued that there is little time g for the electoral body to conduct fresh elections; hence, the need for Mutharika to act on the Bills with urgency.
Procedurally, the President is supposed to assent to a Bill within 21 days from the date of its passage in Parliament. This means Mutharika is remaining with less than 14 days to assent to the Electoral Bills if MEC is to conduct fresh presidential elections based on the new law.
The ConCourt ordered that fresh presidential election should be conducted within 150 days.