Parliament is scheduled to convene from June 5 to July 24 for its Budget Meeting which will also tackle the sticky issue of the date for the fresh presidential election besides passing the 2020/21 National Budget.
In an interview on Tuesday, Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye said specific details of the business of the House will be known after a planning meeting of the Business Committee which is chaired by the Speaker and comprises members of Parliament (MPs) from parties represented in the National Assembly.
Parliament was initially scheduled to meet for the Budget Meeting, which opens with a State of the Nation Address by the President, from May 8 to June 26 2020, but the meeting was called off due to the abortive 21-day national lockdown government planned as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
During the forthcoming meeting, according to Mwenye, Parliament has placed additional measures to prevent Covid-19.
He said: “On Covid-19, you may wish to know that in addition to the preventive measures from the Ministry of Health, Parliament has put in place additional preventive measures to address its unique environment. These measures cater for a number of situations, including meetings. These measures will be updated from time to time.”
Mwenye said deliberations in the House will not be open to the public, adding that only a limited number of accredited journalists will be allowed access. The journalists will be required to wear their own masks and use disinfectants on their equipment.
During the meeting, MPs are expected to review laws to facilitate a probable re-run in case no candidate garners the 50-percent-plus one majority as interpreted by both the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
In March, President Peter Mutharika withheld assent to election-related bills that Parliament sent for his nod in February, arguing that their proposals were in conflict with constitutional provisions.
The meeting also comes weeks before the proposed fresh presidential election date of June 23 amid the resignation of embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and the pending expiry of contracts of eight MEC commissioners on June 5.
The Constitutional Court on February 3 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election and ordered a fresh election within 150 days which expire on July 3, a development that prompted Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, to raise a red flag that holding the fresh election on July 2 would be in contempt of the order to have the elections within 150 days because some processes—including declaration of the winner—would spill over beyond the date.
In an interview on Tuesday, chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Kezzie Msukwa said the committee would move quickly to table in Parliament the electoral issues to be tackled during the limited time to facilitate the election.
Last week, the committee summoned Ansah and her team as well as Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale to discuss the date when the fresh election should be held.
The committee later wrote MEC that June 23 be the proposed date, but Kaphale faulted the action, saying the committee is not Parliament; hence, exceeded its mandate which is reporting back to Parliament.