Parliament yesterday set the pace towards processing of the Electoral Reforms Bills by adopting two of the three motions facilitating the tabling of the Bills today as directed by the Constitutional Court on February 3 2020.
The two motions passed yesterday relate to the amendment of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act (PPEA) and the Electoral Commission Act.
Today, the House is expected to move a motion on the amendment of the Constitution in line with the proposed Electoral Reforms.
The first motion, the amendment of the PPEA, moved by Lilongwe City South West member of Parliament (MP) Nancy Tembo (independent), was adopted unanimously with no objections from both sides of the House.
However, Nkhata Bay West MP Chrispin Mphande (UTM Party) did not have it easy as his motion for the amendment of the Electoral Commission Act had to go into division before it was eventually adopted.
During the division—the process where Parliament takes a vote by physically counting the legislators by their vote—91 MPs in the 193-seat National Assembly voted in support of the motion while 84 objected it and one abstained. Fifteen legislators were absent.
The legislators, mostly on the government side, said they were not comfortable with the proposal of the motion. They said they feared that if the Electoral Commission Act is amended, commissioners will be victims of political interference as once deemed incompetent they can be removed.
But Mphande said he was happy that his motion was passed. He said the amendment seeks to bring sanity at the electoral body in the management of elections.
The motion on the Electoral Commission Act (Amendment), among others, proposes that the power of the President to appoint members of the commission be exercised on the recommendation of the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament.
Mphande said: “This will be the body to which the Constitution assigns the power to recommend the removal of the members. The Bill provides that nominations for appointment to the commission shall be received from political parties represented in Parliament by more than one member and further that nominations to fill a casual vacancy on the commission shall be submitted by the political party which nominated the member of the commission that has vacated the office.”
The Bill also makes ancillary provisions with respect to the office of MEC chief elections officer (CEO)for the better management of the fresh presidential election. It suggests that the Clerk of Parliament replaces the MEC CEO.
On the motion for the amendment of the PPEA, Tembo said if the Bill will be tabled, it proposes to enact an amendment of the PPEA to abridge the period of registration of voters in the fresh presidential election the court ordered to be held within 150 days from February 3.
A further amendment to the PPEA is to add a provision to Section 57 with regard to the campaign period for a run-off in case the first round of a presidential election does not produce a majority winner.
The court nullified the presidential election in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and tasked Parliament to take appropriate legislative measures to ensure that:
·The significance of the certainty which is brought by the fixing of the date of the general election under Section 67(1) of the Constitution is preserved; and that,
·Whoever is elected President of the Republic during the fresh election, is allowed to serve the constitutionally prescribed five-year term.
·The Public Appointments Committee of the National Assembly should, in terms of Section 75(4) of the Constitution, inquire into the capacity and competence of the Electoral Commission’s current commissioners, to oversee the conduct of the fresh elections;
·Parliament should take necessary amendment action in respect of Section 75(1) of the Constitution so that the appointing authority of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission is clearly provided for.
The court also gave Parliament 21 days from February 3 2020 to make appropriate provisions for the holding of the presidential run-off in the event that no single candidate secures the constitutional majority under Section 80(2) of the Constitution as interpreted by the court.
The five-judge panel comprising Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and Dingiswayo Madise, unanimously upheld a petition to nullify the election, and tasked Parliament to facilitate the reconstruction of MEC which they found to have been “grossly incompetent”.