The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) says it will meet in January to map the way forward on planned demonstrations—initially set for December 13 before they were postponed—to push for enactment of Electoral Reforms Bills.
Following government’s indication that it would table all the bills, PAC postponed the nationwide demonstrations. The bills, including 50-plus-one electoral system of choosing the country’s president, were rejected.
In an e-mail response on Christmas Day, PAC executive director Robert Phiri said the group failed to meet during the festive season, but expressed optimism that people will participate in the protests irrespective of the postponement.
He said the marches will be on next year and that there should be no doubts about it unless PAC board thinks otherwise.
Said Phiri: “We postponed the protests based on reason. We analysed the petition we presented to the Speaker of the National Assembly and Head of State and examined the outcomes.
“First the bills, though in modified form, were tabled. Second, the Business Committee prioritised the reforms. What failed was for the reform to pass in Parliament.”
He said in that regard, Malawians witnessed for themselves the conduct of the country’s leaders on the reforms; hence, they are the best judges on the matter.
The bills include the Assumption of Office of the President (Transitional Arrangement) Bill, Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections Bill and the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill.
In an earlier interview, University of Livingstonia political scientist George Phiri cautioned PAC to be on its guard when organising other protests to avoid the possibility of a low turnout.
He said: “I think the momentum will not be the same. They need to be tactical and analyse the issue critically if they want mass participation.”
Another political analyst, Nandini Patel, also said PAC had built on good momentum but pointed out that once such momentum has been lost, it is very hard to get it back.
The Electoral Reforms Bills that PAC wanted tabled include an Amendment of Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act proposing a 50-plus-one majority in presidential election and an Amendment of Section 81 (3) of the Constitution for the swearing in of the President and Vice-President to be done after 30 days.