The government and opposition sides in Parliament are in a tug-of-war with no winner in sight over the Private Member’s Bill which if passed would supposedly remove the possibility of rigging through tampering with recorded voting figures.
The Bill, tabled by Lilongwe South member of Parliament (MP) Peter Dimba (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) during the last meeting, seeks to amend provisions on the management of election results.
Among other things, the Bill proposed to remove district commissioners as poll managers, that tally centres should be instituted in constituencies where vote results should be announced before transferring them to the national tally centre.
But government has stood its ground that the Bill is premature because the Malawi Law Commission was working on electoral reforms recommendations which would be tabled in June.
The MP was not in the House last Thursday and yesterday—the day devoted to Private Member’s business in the National Assembly—to wind up debate.
MCP fears that the high government attendance on Thursdays is a tactic to shoot down the Bill Committee stage and it is not willing to move.
An MCP legislator who opted for anonymity confided in The Nation that it was a strategy for the legislator not to be in the House just as it was a government strategy to have large numbers on Private Member’s business.
“We are using this Bill as a bait, if they don’t bring the election Bills in June as promised then we will maintain this one until they do. But since they are now talking about November, then we will also keep the Bill on the order paper waiting for the right numbers,” said the MP.
About 45 minutes into the afternoon sitting yesterday, the government had close to 50 MPs present, including “friendly” independents, against 28 from both MCP and People’s Party (PP).
When the table clerk read the item to wind up debate on the Bill, Dimba’s absence from the House prompted some government MPs to call out ‘wathawa!’
MCP chief whip Lobin Lowe said the party was lobbying and consulting as advised by the government side.
He said: “If the government could bring the other Bills this June, we could withdraw it and bring our propositions as amendments but since they have said November, we will not wind up debate.
“They [DPP] are the beneficiaries of a messed up management of election results, that’s why they don’t want this Bill.”
On his part, DPP chief whip Henry Mussa did not deny that it was the government’s intention to shoot down the Bill.
“They have no ground to stand on and they know it has no way of finding this Bill enacted. They know it will be shot down, that’s why they are not winding up debate,” he said.
Apart from the establishment of the constituency tally centres where all results from the polling centres will be tallied, the Bill also proposes a constituency returning officer who, on behalf of the Malawi Electoral Commission, would publicly announce results for both parliamentary and presidential polls for that constituency. n