President Peter Mutharika has accepted Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah’s resignation, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said on Friday.
Ansah, speaking in an interview on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) on Thursday night said she had written Mutharika about her decision to step down and was awaiting his response.
But Kalilani on Friday said: “I can confirm that His Excellency the President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has accepted the decision of Dr. Jane Ansah SC to step aside as chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
“In accepting the decision, the President has described Dr Jane Ansah as a distinguished Malawian patriot who has served her country well and selflessly,” said Kalirani.
Mutharika’s acceptance of Ansah’s wish to resign follows calls on the President by various groups to immediately make new appointments for commissioners that will manage the forthcoming fresh presidential election.
The groups, that include the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and the Political Science Association (PSA), have also called on the rest of the commissioners to resign.
In a statement signed by PSA president Joseph Chunga and the group’s secretary general Ernest Thindwa, the group argues that the current crop of commissioners has no moral and legal acumen to manage elections, hence the need for them to resign.
It reads, in part: “It is in our considered view as PSA that the appointing authority should no longer hold the country at ransom by either being elusive on the matter or continuing with dilly-dallying tactics on these urgent matters of national interest.
“We at PSA strongly hold that the current crop of commissioners has no legal, technical or moral basis to handle fresh elections following their gross mismanagement of May 19 2020 Presidential elections.”
Besides condemning political violence, PSA has also expressed concern over Mutharika’s decision to withhold assent to electoral law bills, which it argues has resulted in uncertainty.
It adds: “We further note that presidential assent to the bills was, in part, because the President disagreed with the Constitutional Court’s determination on the meaning of the word ‘majority’ and had appealed against it.
“Suffice to say that the Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the Constitutional Court that for the presidential election, the word majority means at least 50 percent of the total valid votes plus one more vote. Thus, there are no valid and outstanding reasons for withholding presidential assent.”
On his part, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said the resignation of Ansah is a victory for Malawians who have been pushing for her removal.
However, Trapence said their planned demonstrations on May 28 remain intact, until all commissioners resign.
“What Ansah has done is what Malawians have been looking for, but that is not an end in itself. We want all other commissioners to resign.
“Further, new commissioners should be appointed quickly to manage the elections within the specified period as determined by the courts. If this does not happen, we will proceed with our protests on May 28,” he warned.
Speaking while addressing the media in Mzuzu on Friday, executive director for the Church and Society Program of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Moses Mkandawire, said the current commissioners do not have the legal mandate to manage an election.
“We expect all commissioners to resign. They have already been proven as incompetent by the courts and Parliament. It will be unfortunate if they cling on to the positions.
“It will be honourable enough for them to follow what Ansah has done. The head is gone, why should they cling on? Whose interest will they serve because the majority of Malawians have lost trust in them?,” said Mkandawire.