Parliament on Tuesday adopted a motion to gazette June 23 as the date for the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election in a move the government side has protested and described as unprocedural.
It all started minutes after the House started the day’s business when Chitipa East member of Parliament (MP) Kezzie Msukwa (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), standing on a point of order, moved the motion to waive all other government business to pass a resolution on the election date.
Using the Parliamentary Standing Order 211, Mzimba North MP Yeremiah Chihana (Alliance for Democracy-Aford) moved the motion that June 23 be gazetted as the date for the election.
The opposition side nodded to the motion, but the government side protested the move and chanted that First Deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo should stop presiding over business on the afternoon.
In an interview, leader of the House Kondawani Nankhumwa described the manner the motion was tabled and adopted as an ambush as there was no notice on the order paper—an outline of business to be tackled in the National Assembly.
He said: “We are emphasising on the procedure that has been followed in moving the motion. We don’t agree with what has happened because procedures were not followed.”
Nankhumwa also accused Kazombo of “bulldozing the process”.
However, he hinted that the Electoral Reforms Bill government circulated on Tuesday also proposed the June 23 date.
But the memorandum of the Bill Nankhumwa referred to also proposes that MPs decide between simple majority (first past the post) and the 50-percent-plus-one majority in determining the winner, a proposal which sharply contradicts the recent interpretation of majority by the Constitutional Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
The proposal further entrenches President Peter Mutharika’s claim that Parliament is “supreme” or above the Judiciary; hence, should pass laws. Mutharika has publicly condemned the judgement of the court, describing it as usurping the will of Malawians.
On his part, leader of opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe justified the action taken on Tuesday, saying the opposition decided to table the motion after noting that the government side was not forthcoming on the election date.
The High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court on February 3 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities, especially in the results management system and ordered a fresh election within 150 days which expires on July 3. The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on May 8 upheld the nullification.
However, the fresh election faces several legal and logistical challenges, including enabling laws and printing of ballot papers which is yet to be sanctioned.