President Peter Mutharika will constitute a new commission for the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) by June 5, the day on which the contract for the current commissioners expires, the State House Press Office has said.
Presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani in an interview yesterday said the President will appoint new commissioners and that the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) will communicate to the Judicial Service Commission this week about the stepping aside of MEC chairperson Jane Ansah.
He said: “The President is very much aware that the contract for the current commissioners will expire on June 5. So, by that time, he will do his part as required by law.
“As for Justice Ansah, the letter for her stepping aside came on Thursday. As such, OPC will write the Judicial Service Commission, notifying them of the same early this week.”
Registrar of the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Agnes Patemba said in a separate interview: “We wait to be informed about the vacancy in the office of MEC chair , once notified Judicial Service Commission will do the needful.”
Section 4 (1) of the Electoral Commission Act mandates the President to appoint commissioners in consultation with leaders of political parties.
It reads: “(1) The President shall, subject to the Constitution and in consultation with the leaders of the political parties represented in the National Assembly, appoint suitably qualified persons to be members of the commission on such terms and conditions as the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament shall determine.
“(3) A member of the commission may resign from his office at any time by notice in writing to the President.”
Following Ansah’s resignation, 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 its president Joseph Chunga and the group’s secretary general Ernest Thindwa last Friday, PSA 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 the fresh election following their gross mismanagement of May 21 2019 presidential election.”
On his part, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said Ansah’s resignation is a victory for Malawians who have been pushing for her removal.
He said HRDC will proceed with their planned demonstrations on May 28 until all commissioners resign.
Malawians will vote in a fresh presidential poll on June 23 after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Constitutional Court to nullify the May 21 2019 presidential election due to massive irregularities.