Three Bills, which Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on Electoral Law Reforms, which are part of preparations for the 2025 General Elections, are expected to be presented in Parliament during the November 2022 sitting.
A statement from MEC’s Chief Elections Officer, Andrew Mpesi says the Bills will be published in the Gazette this month of September to satisfy the requirements of presentation and tabling of bills before the National Assembly.
He said MEC held a meeting with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs on Monday, September 12, to be apprised on the progress made on the Bills and the Commission was assured by the Minister assured the Commission that the Bills are set for tabling in Parliament.
The proposed amendments of the electoral laws are:
(i) The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2022 — which aims at prescribing the period for holding by-elections, providing for the minimum and the maximum number of members of the Electoral Commission and changing of the name of the Electoral Commission to Malawi Electoral Commission.
(ii) Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022 — aims at providing for minimum educational qualifications for persons to be appointed as members of the Commission and empower the Commission to devise other means of voting.
(iii) Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill, 2022 — aims at coming up with a new and comprehensive legal framework for the regulation of all elections in Malawi.
This Bill has harmonised and consolidated the provisions in the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and the Local Government Elections Act into one piece of legislation to improve accessibility and consistency of the legal framework governing the conduct of all elections in Malawi.
Further, the bill is providing for the holding of second election in the event that the first presidential election does not produce candidate that satisfied the 50+1 vote threshold as set by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi — filling of vacancies created by the death or withdrawal of nomination of a running mate before the holding of a presidential election and prescribing the period for the swearing in of a person who has been elected to be President or appointed to be First Vice-President or Second Vice-President.
The Bill also contains other provisions that are aimed at improving the efficiency of management of elections.
The background to the reforms is that as part of preparations for the 2025 General Elections, the Electoral Commission — through its Legal Services Committee — “initiated a process of identifying and making recommendations on specific provisions in the whole electoral legal framework that require reform through legislative amendments for purposes of improving both efficiency and credibility in the management of elections”.
“Considering that similar efforts were being undertaken by other electoral stakeholders through a joint coalition of civil societies, the Commission resolved and agreed to the formation of a joint National Task Force on Electoral Reforms — referred to as the National Task Force — which was co-chaired by the Electoral Commission and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) to undertake the exercise.”
This National Task Force came up with consolidated proposed areas of reform which were then submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs followed by consultations with stakeholders.
MEC emphasized that the proposals were prepared after “a highly consultative process involving all the key electoral stakeholders” as the National Taskforce held consultative meetings on the electoral reforms in April, 2021.
“The meeting brought together selected members of political parties represented in Parliament, members of the civil society organizations, traditional and religious leaders, gender activists and other non- governmental organisations.
“Contributions and observations from the stakeholders that were consulted were incorporated into the proposed recommendations for review.”
MEC further said the Bills which are carrying the proposed reforms were adopted by Cabinet and referred to the Ministry of Justice for finalization for presentation and tabling before Parliament.
“Once the Bills have been published in the Gazette, the National Task Force will hold a national stakeholders’ meeting to unpack all changes that are being proposed through the Bills.”
“Apart from law review, the Commission emphasized to the government the need for early funding starting from the 2022/23 financial year in order to commence preparations for the 2025 elections.
“The Commission will soon issue a calendar that will detail the critical steps to be taken as we prepare for the 2025 elections so that all stakeholders can follow and participate effectively,” said the statement from the Chief Elections Officer.