The Legal Affairs Committee has rejected proposed amendments to the Electoral Commission Bill that provided for the President to appoint commissioners to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
Instead, the committee has proposed a new clause 3 of Bill number 23, Electoral Commission (Amendment) where political parties would submit names to the President for consideration as commissioners.
This in essence maintains the status quo in the Electoral Commission Act being amended which provides that the President appoints commissioners in consultation with political parties.
Presenting the report of the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee on the Bill yesterday, chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said the committee had observed that by providing that the president alone would appoint commissioners it would mean there would be no checks and balances in the process.
It was the Law Commission’s view that the arrangement could leave out parties that acquire representation in the National Assembly after commissioners have already been appointed.
But the committee wants that only those political parties with a minimum of 10 percent representation in Parliament should be the ones to submit nominations to the President because these would already have a wide following.
Unlike the current situation where the President can refuse to confirm submissions of political parties, the committee wants that the President be compelled to appoint from the submitted list and amendments would be proposed to that effect.
“Instead of limiting presidential powers in the appointment of officers it promotes the concentration of appointment powers in the presidency,” the report reads.
This, according to the committee would negatively affect the independence and autonomy of the Electoral Commission.
“The President might choose commissioners that would serve his political interests since he would be the sole person identifying them and eventually appointing them,” the committee observed.
The committee is also against giving powers to the Chief Secretary and the National Remuneration Commission to determine terms and conditions of service removing them from the Public Appointments Committee.
Thyolera said this move would compromise the independence of MEC and promote executive interference and involvement in the running of the commission.
The Special Law Commission on electoral reforms had recommended that the commissioners should comprise experts that would be relevant to the mandate of administering elections such as lawyers, statisticians, social scientists and economists.
But the committee states that this would not be ideal as it presumed that commissioners would be responsible for day to day management of the commission.
But the report proposes: “The committee recommends that political parties must submit nominations to the President from which the President shall appoint the commissioners.”
When debate on the Bill resumes, Thyolera is expected to propose amendments to the Electoral Commission (amendment) Bill.
Leader of House Kondwani Nankhumwa advised that debate on the report be done another time because it had not been circulated to the members.
Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu asked for time to analyse the report and its recommendations before commenting on its contents.