Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has proposed a national political dialogue to chart the way forward in the event that President Peter Mutharika ignores recommendations from Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC) to fire electoral commissioners.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa said the discussion should tackle key issues, including the firing or maintaining of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners if Malawians are to experience a credible fresh election.
The chairperson, whose network endorsed the nullified May 21 2019 presidential election results, reasoned that it is not possible for MEC to carry out all the electoral calendar activities within the given time frame if the process needs to be called good.
He said: “It is not proper for us to decide what activities need to be done since all the activities in the process need to be conducted. There are other people who have turned 18 and they need to register… But other things being equal it is not possible for MEC to do all the activities.
“The issue should not be on time now, but we need to have a good election given what the court has ordered. And if we want to have a good election, we need to have a political discussion. We have seen the two sides discussing the issue in court and yet the election belongs to Malawians.”
Mesn’s concerns come at a time the President is yet to act on the PAC recommendations following the assessment of current MEC commissioners’ competences as ordered by the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court.
Parliament last week passed amendments to the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and Electoral Commission Act to facilitate holding of presidential elections using the 50 percent-plus-1 majority and provision for a run-off in case no candidate garners the required majority.
Parliament also proposed the date of the fresh election to be May 19 2020, meaning there are 76 days from today. Meanwhile, MEC is yet to produce an electoral calendar.
In his reaction, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said in an interview on Wednesday that MEC is racing against time.
He said by now some critical activities should have been undertaken to ensure a credible election.
Comparing with the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, Chibwana, whose organisation remains one of MEC’s critical stakeholders in monitoring of electoral cycle activities, said in normal circumstances, MEC should have been overseeing voter registration and that it should have already called for the National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof).
He said MEC has no option but to comply with the court order; hence, the need to act swiftly.
Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Kezzie Msukwa said in an interview his committee is not worried that MEC is delaying to rollout electoral activities since elections can still be conducted within 60 days.
On whether the current commissioners can manage the fresh presidential election, he hinted that the c ommission is not dissolved, hence it can still exercise its powers and conduct electoral activities.
While MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa indicated that the commission will only give an update on what it is doing through a statement, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the delay in assenting to the Bill is not stopping MEC in any way from operating.
Said Kalilani: “The President is scrutinising the Bills and his decision will be known within the period the law provides for such a task, which is 21 days.”