Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has postponed nationwide demonstrations slated for Wednesday following government’s turnaround to table electoral reforms bills in parliament.
Just a day before the nationwide protests against governments, PAC chairperson Felix Chingota told journalists in Lilongwe that the decision to suspend was made at a three-hour meeting the faith-based organisation held in the capital on Monday night.
The board meeting focused on whether to proceed with the civil action after government circulated what is largely considered as an adulated bill.
Activists and opposition politicians dismissed the bills a government’s ploy to delay or stop the passing of the bills.
This followed cabinet’s decision to extend the contentious 50+1 provision—which proposes a run-off when the winning presidential candidate fails to scoop at least half of the votes cast—to parliamentary and councillorship polls.
Chingota, flanked by PAC executive committee members and some board members, said the faith-based organisation will keep monitoring events in the National Assembly.
He said PAC may “reignite” the calls for demonstrations if government stops the tabling of the bills.
Chingota said PAC was not coerced to put off the protests as the Executive had lived up to its end of the bargain.
He explained: “Members took time to examine the above requests and noted that 5 out 6 bills have been debated this week. It was however observed that the government brought some new changes to the bills, especially on 50+1 which now extends to MPs and Councillors. We note this was not part of the Law Commission report.
“We further observe that the Local Government Act reforms have not reached Parliament. The latter for us still remains crucial to improvement of service delivery in the country. The approach taken by government to introduce changes to the bills that were not anticipated demonstrates bad intention on their part.
There was no immediate reaction from PAC’s partners and civil society organisations that backed the push for electoral reforms.
PAC organised the 13 December demonstrations to press for the bills, but later added an array of governance issues, including calls for an end to ruling party’s monopoly of the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.
When asked whether the additional concerns no longer matter, Chingota said the governance issues were highlighted as a second call of action if government was unwilling to table the bills.
“Such a failure could have demanded a call for new, transformative leadership which could have been tasked to deal with wider governance issues,” he said.
Several churches and civil society groups had leapt to offer PAC support while some chiefs, some churches and critics called for more consultations and dialogue on the matter.
On Monday, government pulled a surprise by tabling the electoral bills.
The proposed laws drew the wrath of civil society players who feel the Executive deliberately veered off from the recommendations of the law commission to restrict the 50+1 clause to the presidential race only.