13 November 2017

Malawi Flagship Newspaper Pushes for Referendum On Electoral Reforms

Malawi's flagship newspaper, the Daily Times, is proposing a referendum on electoral reforms should government continue to drag its feet in tabling the Electoral Reforms Bill during the current sitting of parliament, which many feel it's likely.

President Peter Mutharika's address on Friday during the opening of the 47th Session of Parliament did not mention the issue of electoral reforms

despite the support the bills command from civil society organizations, the country's donor partners and opposition politicians.

Among the dragging Bills is the one on changing the electoral system and making some amendments to issues concerning electoral dispute resolution by delaying the swearing in of the winning presidential candidate.

The Bills also propose Malawi to migrate from the Malawi's long time First-Pass-the- Post electoral system to 50+1 system.

"The ruling party seems not to be happy with 50+1 amendment. This is what is making the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) jittery... The party is being led by leaders who that was voted into power with a mere 36 percent of the national vote," says the paper in its editorial comment.

It adds that no wonder they are not interested in the bills because he is in the know that come 2019, he may not be able to amass enough votes.

"It's becoming clear that the ruling party wants to keep the status quo because like other parties before it, they have been benefiting from it."

The Electoral Reforms Bills failed to be tabled in parliament in May as was earlier planned because Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Samuel Tembenu said he received the recommendations of the Special Law Commission late.

He promised to table the Bills in November.

"This is November and there are all indications that the government is again not ready... The Minister of Justice Tembenu has to be held accountable and deliver on the promise he made in May this year. If that fails, we will need a referendum," the paper concludes.

Meanwhile the opposition parliamentarians have threatened to mount a strong protest in parliament should government fail to table the eagerly awaited Electoral Reforms Bills during the current sitting.

And the donors have stressed that they expect the newly-opened Parliament to deliberate on electoral reforms for the sake of the country's democratic growth.

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