Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the official opposition in Parliament, has threatened to call for ‘peaceful’ civil disobedience next month if government fails to introduce a Bill to discuss all electoral reforms.
In an exclusive interview this week, MCP spokesperson Alekeni Menyani said his party has resolved “to make the country ungovernable” in a peaceful way if government continues to dive and duck on electoral reforms which, he said, are being overshadowed by trivia.
He said: “We are demanding that government should bring to Parliament all relevant electoral reforms Bills and if government is not ready, the President must resign or we will call for civil disobedience.”
Menyani said the country has spent much time discussing the “illness or non-illness” of the President at the expense of important issues such as the electoral reforms.
He also said MCP wants the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to implement the proposal of moving MEC headquarters to Lilongwe and that announcements of results during a national election should be made at the constituency level.
“All these have to be passed during the next meeting of Parliament or else we will make this country ‘peacefully’ ungovernable,” said Menyani.
He said the party will mobilise people to peacefully force the government to implement the electoral reforms as proposed in several forums.
Some of the key reforms MCP wants discussed are the merit of shifting to 50-plus-one system from the current first-past-the-post and the amendment of electoral laws.
While supporting the push for the electoral reforms to be implemented, political analyst Boniface Dulani has faulted MCP on its position to call for national disobedience, saying the party should exhaust all the avenues before taking that direction.
He said: “The reforms have indeed delayed and it is good that MCP, as a party, has taken that initiative. I am sure all the parties, including the ruling party, would support the reforms.”
In the electoral reform recommendations, stakeholders, among others, recommended the amendment of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act to be integrated into a single Election Act.
The stakeholders also recommended financing of political campaigns be legislated to ensure transparency and accountability.
Further, the reforms propose a law to allow better management of the transition from polling day to the inauguration of the President and Vice-President to ensure sufficient time for a petition to be resolved prior to inauguration.
The stakeholders also called for amendment of Section 77 of the Constitution to establish the age of voter eligibility to be 18 years of age or older, on the day of the election and on polling as well as Section 67(1) of the Constitution for general elections to be conducted in September rather than May.
Other recommendations include empowering MEC to issue subsidiary legislation: in line with international best practice, the MEC should be empowered to issue Regulations on its key areas of competence and the election process under the Electoral Commission Act.
Recommendations were to establish a specific offence for vote buying (whether by handouts or other means) should be included in the election laws, as well as the Corrupt Practices Act to deter vote buying and staggered announcement of results as follows; seven days for the President, 14 days for National Assembly and 21 days for local councils.
Minister of Information and Communications Technology Malisoni Ndau said last evening the reforms report was being handled by a special committee and that he was yet to get details on progress.
On MCP’s threats, Ndau said the public will be the best judges.
However, a source within the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs told The Nation that no Bill on electoral reforms has been drafted and there is a slim chance that anything of that sort would be tabled in Parliament during the next meeting.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa said legal matters of the electoral reforms were the domain of the Malawi Law Commission and he did not see how government would push the commission to take the reforms to Parliament as the agency is an independent body.
He said MCP or other interested parties should lobby the Law Commission to expedite their process so that the country can avoid the challenges that affected the 2014 elections in other elections in future.
Previous elections have been marred by irregularities that prompted Mesn to champion the reforms. n