Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Chifundo Kachale has called on government to facilitate electoral legal reform processes, saying failure to do so threatens the country’s democracy.
He was speaking in Lilongwe on Thursday during an Electoral Law Reforms review meeting organised by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust.
The MEC chairperson said electoral reforms will improve future elections management processes and help consolidate democracy.
Said Kachale: “Our understanding of democracy is that citizens should take an active role in democracy, and one such opportunity is granted to them through voting. In order for the voting to be a credible process, it has to be governed by laws that truly reflect and safeguard the will of the people. And in order to attain such a status, the Electoral Commission continues to make strides in the electoral legal reform process.”
Among other concerns, he bemoaned the lack of the electoral body’s independence. He further questioned the logic of
parties contributing MEC commissioners, saying the move has consequences on the performance of the commission.
“Commissioners should not just be there as patronage. There is need to look at expertise. The commission needs competent people and not just being a political commission,” said Kachale.
He also touched on the independence of MEC in various areas, including financial issues, saying in the last election, government tried to frustrate operations of MEC by playing around with funding.
The MEC chair lamented that the Executive and Parliament frustrated the reforms and called on those reviewing the reforms to look at factors that forced the two arms of government to fail to support the reforms.
He further advised that when coming up with reforms there is need to thoroughly look at what they will achieve.
On his part, European Union Ambassador Ivo Hoefkens said another area to look at is independence of State-owned media to ensure they are neutral and serve every Malawian.
Nice Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju called on government to support and implement the electoral reforms.
He said: “Nice has hope that the Tonse Alliance government will support the reforms. Members of Parliament should also support the reforms as they will benefit the country’s democracy.”
Nice Trust board member Kent Mphepo has since called for a speedy implementation of the electoral reforms to ensure they are applied in the next elections.
Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said government is committed to implementing the electoral reforms, adding it is important that all arms of government exercise their mandates independently to ensure that the reforms are implemented.
He said: “In the past there was lack of political will on the part of the Executive and Parliament. The Tonse government is committed to implement the reforms. For the reforms to work, every arm of government, especially the Executive and Legislature, must do its part. I also call upon Malawians to engage the Legislature to ensure that they support the reforms.”
Among the reforms that stakeholders are pushing for include the need to reserve seats for female legislators as a way of promoting women empowerment; President and his vice should be relieved of their duties once elections approach to level the ground for electoral candidates; Review of the criteria for one to be declared winner; Harmonising electoral laws (in the Act and Constitution); independence of MEC; and the appointment and tenure of commissioners.