Beleagured Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) faces its first credibility test from today when its commissioners meet Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament as recommended by the Constitutional Court when it nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election.
Both MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika and the parliamentary committee’s chairperson Collins Kajawa confirmed the meeting in separate interviews yesterday.
The confirmation of the meeting comes against a background of a letter purporting that the electoral body was seeking 21 more days to prepare for the meeting with the committee because its commissioners were yet to finalise going through the 500-page judgement the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court delivered on February 3 2020, nullifying the May 21 2019 presidential election for alleged irregularities.
But Alfandika has since disowned the letter that circulated on the social media and earned the electoral body harsh criticism from commentators.
He said: “We [MEC] have seen that letter on the social media, but that does not exist to us. Just ignore that. In fact, we are meeting PAC from tomorrow [today] up to Wednesday this week.”
In a separate interview, Kajawa also confirmed the meeting with the electoral body from today to Wednesday this week to explain the management of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections which the Constitutional Court deemed to have been marred by irregularities resulting from negligence and bordering on incompetence.
In an apparent reference to the social media letter that claimed MEC wanted more time, he said his committee had no official communication from MEC to that effect; hence, was sure the meeting would proceed as planned from today.
Kajawa said: “We are sure they [MEC] will be coming [for the meeting] since they are a law abiding institution. We will not change our business plan. It will remain the same.”
In its ruling that nullified the presidential election over widespread irregularities and ordered a fresh election within 150 days, the Constitutional Court mandated Parliament to speed up the development of instruments to facilitate electoral reforms, including the law that the winner of presidential election garners a 50-plus-one majority.
The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and Dingiswayo Madise, which unanimously upheld a petition to nullify the vote, also tasked Parliament to facilitate the reconstruction of MEC which the court found to have been “grossly incompetent”.
Parliament was asked to amend the law within 21 days to accommodate run-offs in case no presidential candidate gets the 50+1 majority.
Further, the court asked PAC to enquire into the competence of the current MEC under Section 75 of the Constitution to ensure that the pending fresh election is conducted competently.
Parliament has also been asked to amend Section 75 of the Constitution to mention the appointing authority of the commission.
In an earlier interview on Thursday, Kajawa said the committee would study the judgement before deciding the fate of the MEC commissioners.
PAC is vested with powers to make recommendations on confirmation or recall of public officers appointed into higher positions.
Using the quantitative and qualitative approach, the court said MEC’s management of the electoral process left a lot to be desired.
The meeting between Parliament’s PAC and MEC comes amid growing calls for MEC chairperson Jane Ansah—a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal—and her commissioners to resign for allegedly abdicating on their constitutional duties.
First petitioner in the presidential election nullification petition and UTM Party presidential candidate in the annulled elections, Saulos Chilima—who is back as the country’s Vice-President following the annulment, second petitioner and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, United Democratic Front (UDF) and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have all demanded the resignation of MEC top brass in view of the court ruling.
MEC—which was the second respondent—and first respondent President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have since appealed against the ruling.
During a rally at Msundwe on the outskirts of Lilongwe City along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said his party will not allow the incumbent team at MEC to manage the fresh election because the court found them wanting.
His sentiments came after Chilima, during a news conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday, stated that the whole MEC team, including Alfandika, should step down. The court’s decision nullifying the presidential election, a first in the country’s 26 years of democracy, makes Malawi only the second country to nullify presidential election results after Kenya in September 2017 where opposition candidate Raila Odinga successfully challenged the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.