Speaker refers Mutharika’s snub of Malawi electoral reforms bill to court

Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani Hara, has referred the responses from President Peter Mutharika not to assent to  Electoral Reforms Bills  and fire  Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioners, to the Constitutional Court for further guidance on the matter.

Mutharika has refused to promulgate laws to hold the new ballot and to fire MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners which was requested by the constitutional court in its historic judgment.

The Constitutional Court on February 3 2020 directed Parliament to debate Electoral Reforms Bills following the nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results in preparation of a fresh election within 150 days of the ruling.

Speaker Gotani Hara

In a statement , Gotani Hara said  following a memoranda from the President explaining why he withheld his assent to the bills and refusal to  fire MEC Commissioners, parliament will report to the registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court.

“The memoranda for the President explaining the reasons for withholding assent and also why the president has not approved the removal of the MEC Commissioners as recommended by PAC, were received by my office on 20 March 2020.

“The National Assembly is proceeding to communicate the decisions to the ConCourt through the office of the Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court. Members of the public are hereby assured that the National Assembly will continue to abide by any court rulings as one way of ensuring that there is respect for separation of powers and rule of law,” reads part of the statement.

Mutharika is attempting to quash the process. He has filed an appeal against the court’s annulment of the results and refused to fire members of  the electoral body, as recommended by parliament.

On Tuesday last week, Mutharika delegated his press secretary Mgeme Kalilani to deliver two major messages: that he had withheld assent to election-related bills Parliament sent for his nod last month; and that he would not fire MEC commissioners who the Constitutional Court, presiding over the presidential election dispute, found to be incompetent and ordered Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC) to further assess their fitness. The committee recommended that they be fired.

Among others, Mutharika argued that he was convinced that a fresh presidential poll enabled by the four proposed pieces of legislation would be illegal largely because the Bills were in conflict with the Constitution of Malawi, which he swore to protect.

The Bills were presented in the House by Lilongwe City South West MP Nancy Tembo and Nkhata Bay West legislator Chrispin Mphande as Private Members Bill (PMB) Number 5 of 2020 and PMB Number 4 of 2020, respectively.

On Monday, MEC announced that the fresh poll, whose budget has been pegged at K34 billion, will be conducted on July 2 2020.

Meanwhile, Chancellor College law professor Garton Kamchedzera said the fresh election is not dependent on the coming into law of the Bills and that  requirement for at least 50 percent + 1 of the votes is also not affected.

Another Chancellor College legal expert Edge Kanyongolo said the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal will be the only hope “address appropriate orders”  for the preparations of the fresh presidential election following the rejection of the Bills by the President.

Malawi’s Supreme Court is expected to rule on Mutharika’s appeal in April