Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara says Parliament will act on the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) order compelling it, among other issues, to legislate laws to facilitate a fresh election in 150 days.
Addressing a press briefing at Parliament Building in Lilongwe yesterday, the Speaker said officials have already started working on some of the issues and taking appropriate legislative measures to be used in determining winner of the presidential election.
She said Parliament will work around the clock to ensure it creates the enabling legislative pieces that will support the existing 50+1 in line with the ConCourt.
Said Hara: “These are orders of the court which must be obeyed and implemented unless there is a stay order, or the court varies or sets aside the order. So far, none of that has been obtained and, therefore, the orders of the Constitutional Court are in force and the Parliament of Malawi has no choice but to comply.”
On Monday this week, the ConCourt directed Parliament to use its legislative powers to enact legislation for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) so that its stakeholders should abide by the Constitution in the conduct of elections in the country.
The order came after five High Court judges, who heard the elections case, found that there were massive irregularities in the May 21 2019 presidential election which saw President Peter Mutharika re-elected with 38 percent of the vote.
The court also ordered Parliament to take appropriate legislative measures to ensure that the significance of the certainty which is brought by fixing the date of the general election under Section 67 (1) of the Constitution is preserved.
It also ordered that the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament should, in line with Section 75 (4) of the Constitution, inquire into the capacity and competence of MEC’s current commissioners to oversee the fresh election.
Again, the court ordered that Parliament must, within 21 days from the date of the ruling, make appropriate provisions for holding of a presidential runoff in the event that no single candidate secures the constitutional majority under Section 80 (2) of the Constitution as interpreted by the court.
Putting the time factor in consideration, Hara argued that officials will need to work around the clock to ensure they do everything within a stipulated period of time.
She said the House is currently observing all processes and protocols such as drafting bills for passing in Parliament.
Said the Speaker: “When the bills are formulated, they will be debated in Parliament. The 50+1 law has existed for many years but what lacked was an enabling legislative environment. So what is needed now is some supporting legislative clauses to the section which demands that the President shall be elected by a majority, which the court interpreted to be an accumulation of over 50 percent of the total vote cast in the presidential race.”
Meanwhile, Chancellor College law professor Edge Kanyongolo has said he does not see any problems with the time frame given for drafting, tabling, discussing, passing and assenting to the new law.
He said in an interview yesterday Parliament has in the past passed bills within a short period of time.
Said Kanyongolo: “For example, the Money Laundering Bill was passed within a short period of time. It took a very short period of time because of the stakeholders who pressed for that law. So, this is possible because they will use Standing Orders which provide for expeditation of the process.”
On his part, Chancellor College-based political scientist Ernest Thindwa hinted there could be some political issues when it comes to tabling the bill and debating since some MPs, particularly those from governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will not like the idea of using the 50+1 system for determining the winner of the next presidential poll.
He feared DPP will use its numerical advantage to shoot down some of the proposed provisions from being effected.
Out of the 193-member House, there are 62 DPP, 77 Malawi Congress Party (MCP), 10 United Democratic Front (UDF), five People’s Party (PP) and four from UTM Party parliamentarians. The rest are independent MPs, most of whom have supported DPP in the House.
However, he said for the Bill to pass, MCP could lobby for support from those independent MPs the same way they did when seeking the position of the Speaker. According to the Speaker, the parliamentary Business Committee met on Wednesday and the Public Appointments Committee is scrutinising the court judgement to have an informed basis of the decision to make.