With the budget meeting of Parliament scheduled to start next week, Malawi Government says it will table two bills to facilitate harmonisation of the electoral laws to allow the country to hold tripartite elections next year.
In an interview on Wednesday, Leader of the House Henry Phoya confirmed that the elections bills will be among new bills to be tabled in the House, apart from several others carried forward from the last meeting.
He said: “These two bills are aimed at changing the electoral laws to be in compliance with the Constitution.”
Parliament amended the Constitution to enable the country to hold the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections alongside the Local Government Elections and following the amendment it means that the country would have its first tripartite elections next year.
Harmonisation of the electoral laws has been a thorny issue, especially with the delays to bring the bills into Parliament, with some stakeholders, notably the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), expressing concerns that without the harmonised laws, it would be difficult to hold the tripartite elections next year.
But Reverend Emmanuel Chimkwita Phiri, one of the commissioners at the Electoral Commission (EC), claimed that the elections can still be held without amending the laws.
However, Mesn publicity secretary Steve Duwa argued that without harmonising the electoral laws, it would not be possible to have tripartite elections. He observed that, among several areas, the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act have different provisions on the running of elections, including age requirement and citizenship.
On Monday, Parliament’s Business Committee met to discuss the business during the budget meeting and apart from the presentation of the budget, other business lined up include the two electoral bills.
Phoya also said other topical issues during the meeting will include amendment of various land-related laws, including the Land Act and the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) Act and also confirmation of the Auditor General.
During the last meeting of the House, members of Parliament (MPs) failed to confirm Auditor General Peter Kamange who is earmarked to replace retired Reckford Kampanje.
On their part, opposition parties represented in Parliament have said apart from the electoral laws, they expect government to explain various issues, including status of the Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) and the Shire-Zambezi Waterway project; the threats of hunger; the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (Yedef); the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and the Public Works Programme.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) deputy chief whip Lingson Belekanyama said apart from the electoral laws which the MCP believes are important, the party is also anxious to see that confirmation of the Auditor General is also finalised.
He said: “Government should also come in the open on the crop estimates because it is clear that this season, there will be hunger. Government should explain whether it will have money to buy maize in good time because if all the maize is bought by vendors Malawians will not be able to access it and that would be a recipe for disaster.”
He also said other issues that the opposition would be interested in are the status of Must in Thyolo, a breakdown of how the Yedef money was used and also an analysis of the implementation of the Fisp.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi also said apart from the electoral law, Must should also be a priority in the House.
UDF spokesperson on Parliamentary Affairs Mahamudu Lali also said the electoral laws should be a priority during the meeting.
On the issues suggested by opposition parties, Phoya said government will also bring various ministerial statements, but added that if some members feel that there is need for some ministers to shed light on other pertinent issues, they will have freedom to raise the issues.