With the contracts of eight commissioners having expired on Friday and no commissioners appointed yet, a vacuum has been created at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
The current scenario, according to experts, has potential to negatively affect the holding of the fresh presidential polls, in case of further delay a new team of commissioners.
Following the resignation of embattled MEC chairperson Jane Ansah on May 21 2020, the commissioners continued working with the secretariat as the electoral body is racing against time to hold fresh presidential elections set to be conducted before July 3 2020.
A legal expert John-Gift Mwakhwawa said in an interview yesterday that the electoral body cannot operate without commissioners, adding that the President has the constitutional duty to appoint new commissioners, and to do so timely.
He said the President could be given the benefit of doubt because the contracts of the MEC commissioners expired at the weekend, on a Friday, and people would have to observe what will happen the week beginning today.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa confirmed in an interview yesterday that the commissioners finished their tenure on June 5 2020.
“We are optimistic that a new commission will be put in place soon so that there is no vacuum,” Mwafulirwa said.
Meanwhile, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has also nominated and submitted the names to President Peter Mutharika for possible appointment as MEC commissioners, the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi confirmed yesterday.
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) already submitted names of its nominees.
MCP spokesperson, the Reverend Maurice Munthali said his party expected Mutharika to do the needful, arguing he had no option or luxury of time in as far as announcing the new commission was concerned.
“The out-going commissioners don’t have the legal mandate outside their contracts to discharge any electoral duties at the commission,” Munthali said.
He said Malawi is governed by laws that must be complied with; adding that judgements of the courts are binding that they cannot be manipulated or rejected.
Presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani asked for more time to check what was happening on the matter.
The MEC commissioners that have left office are Mary Nkosi, who proceeded on leave a couple of weeks ago ahead of the expiry of her contract, Elvey Ntafu, Moffat Banda, Yahaya M’madi, Linda Kunje, Jean Mathanga, the Reverend Clifford Baloyi and the Reverend Killion Mgawi.
There were only two political parties eligible to submit names of their officials to be appointed as MEC commissioners—the DPP and MCP.
The High Court in Lilongwe, sitting as a Constitutional Court, (ConCourt) nullified last year’s presidential election owing to massive irregularities as proved by the applicants during the trial and ordered a fresh election.
The ConCourt’s judgement was later upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, which maintained that the fresh presidential election be held within 150 days, from February 3 when the lower court delivered its judgement.
The reality on the ground, however, paints a hazy picture on the practicality of the fresh poll taking place, with legislative and logistical issues still standing in the way.
President Mutharika, as he addressed Parliament via audio feed on Friday urged Parliament to reverse the ConCourt and Supreme Court of Appeal rulings.
In his speech, Mutharika gave his biggest indication that he is considering postponing the election in disregard to the court order.
After the 150 days’ elapse, Mutharika warned the opposition he would not accept to be removed from power—even by the courts, describing such a prospect as reason.