Parliament in Malawi is finally set to debate the controversial Tripartite Elections Bill following the adoption of a Legal Affairs Committee report by the House Tuesday afternoon.
The bill will enable the country to hold three electionsâ€”the presidential, parliamentary and local governmentâ€”in 2014.
One of the controversial issues in the report was a recommendation that the Local Government Elections (LGEs), which have not been held since the dissolution of the only local councils in multiparty Malawi in 2005, be pushed to 2019 because the country has no capacity to prepare for three-tier elections by May 2014.
But chairperson of Parliamentâ€™s Legal Affairs Committee Kenzie Msukwa explained that that was just a suggestion from the committee. He said it does not mean the tripartite elections cannot be held in 2014.
After the report was tabled during the last meeting of the House, many observers, including human rights watchdogs, accused legislators of not being keen and serious in holding the LGEs.
In July this year, the Legal Affairs Committee expressed doubt about the countryâ€™s capacity to hold the three elections at once.
Following that position, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) accused MPs of lacking seriousness in terms of holding the polls.
Mesn spokesperson Steve Duwa is on record as having said that the reportâ€™s earlier suggestions, such as that LGEs can only be held in 2019, clearly indicated that politicians, especially MPs, are afraid of the LGEs.
Since the dawn of multiparty democracy in 1993, Malawi has only held LGEs once in 2000 which were marred by poor voter turnout estimated at as low as 11 percent.