Proposed Electoral Reforms bills are not on the initial list of six Bills to be tabled when Parliament meets from this Friday, it has emerged.
Parliament’s Business Committee, which maps the business to be tackled, met on Friday and agreed on several issues, among them the resuscitation of old bills which were not concluded following the start of the new session of Parliament this Friday.
President Peter Mutharika is due to open the 47th session of Parliament on Friday, November 10 and the meeting will run for five weeks until December 15.
Speaking on the much-awaited electoral reform bills, Leader of House Kondwani Nankhumwa confirmed that the government did not present the bills to the Business Committee because Cabinet is yet to approve them.
“On the electoral reform bills, they are awaiting approval of Cabinet and they were not presented to the Business Committee. But the Cabinet is due to meet sometime this week to scrutinise them,” he said.
Deputy Chief Whip for Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Clement Mlombwa confirmed the development, but indicated that the opposition expressed concerns at the delays.
“The Leader of House promised that the Cabinet would meet as soon as possible to discuss the bills, but we raised concerns that they had already delayed and were very much aware of the Parliament calendar and should have been ready with the bills,” Mlombwa said.
The bills have, however, gone through the Cabinet Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs as mandated by law.
After the Cabinet, the bills will be gazetted before being presented to the House.
According to Standing Order 125, a minister in-charge shall deliver to the clerk a soft copy of the bill and sufficient hard copies that should be circulated to each member at least 28 days before it is first read in the House.
However, on many occasions, the government has tabled bills without following Standing Orders by requesting a waiver on grounds of urgency provided reasons for urgency and consequences to the nation are outlined.
If the government were to observe the 28-day rule and the bills are gazetted and distributed on Monday, November 13, the 28 days would end two days before the House rises.
The Malawi Law Commission proposed at least six bills in its report to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Among these bills were: 1. Amendment of Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections (PPE)Act proposing 50 percent majority in presidential election; 2. Consolidation of PPE Act and Local Government Elections Act; 3. Amendment of Section 81 (3) of the Constitution for swearing in of president and vice-president to be done after 30 days; 4. The Assumption of Office of President Bill would provide for the establishment of a transition team before a president is sworn in; 5. Amendment to Section 62 of the Constitution where each district would provide a single constituency in which only women would contest as candidates for member of Parliament; 6. Elections Management Fund to ensure Malawi Electoral Commission is financially autonomous.
Meanwhile, the Business Committee has also resolved to resuscitate bills from the 47th Session of Parliament among them National Intelligence Service, Legal Education and Legal Practitioners and Pesticides (Amendment).
The House would also receive a report from the joint Legal Affairs and HIV and Aids committees on the HIV and Aids (Prevention and Management) bill and a report from the Legal Affairs Committee on the Political Parties Bill.
Nankhumwa said some ministers would present ministerial statements, among them on the blood sucking saga where nine people were killed in Mulanje and Blantyre.
Last week, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) met Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya ahead of this week’s meeting of Parliament to lobby him to include Electoral Reforms and Local Government Council Composition laws in the business schedule.
PAC chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota said Malawians are keen that a national leader should be elected by the majority.
“If these bills are not tabled, it will be a slap in the face of the citizens and it will be up to them to decide the next course of action,” Chingota said following last week’s meeting with Parliament.
PAC has so far engaged the Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera and the Government Technical Team over resolutions of the 5+1 All Inclusive Stakeholders’ Conference held in June which, among others, included proposals on the local government reforms and electoral reforms. It has also lobbied various stakeholders, including political parties, on the bills.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu told the Budget Meeting of Parliament the bills would be tabled in Parliament this month. He also reiterated the promise during a meeting with PAC.
on The Electoral Reforms bills include the Constitutional amendment that will see the country implementing the 50+1 electoral system and choosing the country’s president while maintaining the First-Past-the-Post system.
MEC is on record as having said it will implement the reforms as long as Parliament passes them before the elections.
Initially, MEC said it could only implement the reforms if the amendments were made before the end of this year. n