Malawi: Allow Mutharika to Conduct Presidential Affairs, Says Malawi Law Society

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has warned political parties and leaders that it will hold accountable anyone who promote any conduct that seeks to subvert the rule of law and has said President Peter Mutharika should be allowed to conduct affairs in the presidency "in the best interest of all Malawians" at all times.

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The lawyers' body has said the Constitution stipulates that that will of the people of Malawi as a whole that the country must be built on and on the foundations of integrity, due process and good governance, transparency, mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and torelance for the common good.

MLS said as the country awaits the outcome of the elections petition case which may go either way, they will keep watching any direct or indirect conduct of all parties concerned..

"The Law Society promises once again to hold accountab;e any of the legal or political leaders who promote any conduct that seeks to subvert the rule of law and the will of the people of Malawi in this post-election period or beyond," reads a letter MLS honorary secretary Martha Etta Kaukonde signed and has been delivered to all the addresses, including President Mutharika, in his capacity as Head of State and president of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The letter is also addressed to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani-Hara, Inspector General (IG) of Police Rodney Jose and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leaders Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, among others.

The law society observed that at the last sitting of Palrimanet some legislators were caught on camera watching a nap wile President Mutharika was delivering the State of the Nation Address.

And some members of parliament from MCP disrupted proceedings and others failed to comment or provide insight on the President's address on account of party political considerations.

The lawyers body said political maneuvering does not serve the nation best unless it falls within legal limits and legal responsibility.

"Any failure to provide responsible oversight on any person occupying the office of the President does not help to 'invalidate anything done by the President before that declaration' by a Court of law if that ever happens," reads the letter.

The Law Society has called upn the Speaker of the National Assembly and all duly elected MPs to see to it that Parliament business is at all times conducted with all the decorum and diligence expected of business that august House.

MLS also said it has observed that since the announcement of the May 21 Tripartite Elections results, the political leaders of DPP, UTM and MCP have arranged public rallies.

Reads the letter in part: "The society observes that such rallies have either turned out to be used as opportunities to question the outcome of the presidential elections or a means of reminding the public about political party manifestos in the way this is done during the campaign period or indeed to attack one another for perceived electoral misconduct or triumph.

"Publicly available newspaper articles and online publications disclosing the position taken by either Prof. Peter Mutharika or Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima [UTM] or Dr. Lazarus Chakwera [MCP] at such political podiums concerning the Presidential elections 2019 or its management are common place."

In this vein, MLS reminds the political leaders that the campaign period provided for in Section 56-57 of Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) is 60 days before the opening of the polling.

"The Law Society observes further that should the court nullify an electoral result and recall an election, the law in Section 100 and 114 PPEA provides that such recalled election will be conducted in accordance with the Act.

"This means that the campaign rights due to electoral political competitors will have to be observed.

"Read as whole, the law expects that after an election, the nation will quickly get down to serious State business and focus on meeting the aspirations of the people of Malawi as set out in Section 13 of the Constitution except that if there is a dispute concerning the election the courts will be managing it in terms of Section 100 or 114 of the PPEA and other relevant laws," the letter reads.

MLS notes that while political parties have a right to assemble and disseminate information and indeed to raise governance issues with any public offices, it considers it the duty and responsibility of political leaders not to undermine the credibility of the legal processes engaged by them to address the presidential election disputes.

"Instead, we consider it the responsibility of the political leaders to use such opportunities to warn their members of the possibility of either outcome at the court, and the need to manage either outcome in accordance with the constitutional duty...

"We, therefore, urge you the political leaders and indeed any member of any grouping to desist from the temptation to assume the role of an arbiter in the electoral dispute placed before the court," reads the letter seen by Nyasa Times.

In respect of DPP, MLS asks Mutharika to consider whether organising any form of counter-demonstration and victory rallies - others call it Chikuwawe rallies - does not fuel the differences especially when the matter remains in court with a possibility of either outcome.

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