Political parties in Malawi will be required to declare assets soon after registration or risk being de-registered if they fail to field candidates in two consecutive national elections.
Political parties will also risk de-registration if they fail to hold national election conferences for a minimum of four consecutive years.
These are some of the proposals contained in the new Political Party Act which political parties in the country have come up with under the coordination of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID).
The new Political Party Act is expected to be in effect before 2014 and will affect all parties in Malawi, according to CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani.
He said this when he unveiled the proposed Act to a consultative meeting of different political parties in Malawi’s Northern Region on Friday in Mzuzu.
The meeting was aimed at getting feedback from the stakeholders before compiling the final document of the Act (Bill).
The new Act, which we have seen, demands 20 registered voters from each constituency; thus 3 860 registered voters across the country to fill a form for a party to be registered. The names of the registered voters will have to be vetted by the district commissioner and village head. This takes away the requirement of 100 people needed across the country to register a party according to the current Act.
The new Act also demands that as a party goes for registration, it should have a constitution, manifesto, symbol, physical address, official colours, name, details of bank accounts, list of trustees, list of members of its national executive committee and their addresses and every registered party to maintain a list of its members and regularly update it.
Under the new Act, there will be an establishment of the Office of Registrar of Political Parties separated from that of the registrar general. The Registrar of Political Parties will also have to be appointed by the President but confirmed by Parliament to make the officer accountable to Parliament for independency.
Tenthani said political parties decided to come up with a new Political Party Act to replace the old one because it has several gaps and it did not give guidance to the parties after registration.
“The current Act as it stands is just for registration and not regulation so people thought of strengthening the law,” he said.
Tenthani said the new Act will check and demand that parties indicate where they get their funds because some parties questionably become rich within a short period of time.
He said Malawi Government, through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Law Commission, is aware of the new law in the offing.
The consultative meeting in Mzuzu welcomed the new Act, saying it will help do away with briefcase parties and the founder syndrome.
“I welcome the new Act. Leaders will not take Malawians for granted. Parties will be required to stand on solid grounds for their existence. I support the Bill,” said Lapken Thindwa, People’s Party deputy regional director for the youth in the North.
UDF Nyika Region youth director Kanalumechi Mtawali said: “Briefcase parties confuse people. With the new Act, only serious parties will have to exist.”
Democratic Progressive Party director of youth for the North, Kelvin Chirambo, said: “These are good proposals in the Act. The new Act is good for all parties. It will strengthen parties and leaders will have to be careful on how to deal with their members and followers. The party ownership syndrome will also go.”
The proposed Act also entitle every member of a registered political party to have reasonable access to all official records maintained by the party; Obliges every party to submit its annual financial accounts relating to any funds provided by the State for auditing by a firm of independent auditors appointed by Parliament.