Malawi: Women Lawyers Association Backs Dragging DPP MPs to Court for Contempt

23 February 2020

Women Lawyers Association has put its full weight behind the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) for taking Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members of parliament to court for contempt for failure to implement Constitutional Court order on electoral reforms bills.

Women Lawyers Association's Dr Benedetta Malunga said the HRDC have good reasons for the court action.

"The members of parliament are under court obligations to pass the electoral reform bills," said Malunga.

The association was the friends of court during the presidential election case.

At least 85 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members of parliament who on Thursday shot down a constitutional amendment to have a provision for a run-off in case no presidential candidate garners over 50 percent of the total votes cast, have been dragged to court for contempt.

Lawyer Ayuba James also said Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has also instructed him to take the 12 members of parliament who abstained to court for the same offence of contempt of court.

"This amendment did not just come from the ordinary, it was an order of the Constitutional Court. The National Assembly was duty bound to pass the bill," he said.

The amendment bill was defeated after it failed to garner two thirds majority vote in the House.

Any constitutional amendment requires two thirds majority which means 128 legislators in Malawi.

But 109 parliamentarians voted in favour of the amendment while 71 rejected. 11 were absent while one abstained.

Ayuba said any court interpretation becomes law automatically.

He said anyone, including parliament, are duty bound to respect court orders.

In its judgement of the presidential election case on 3rd February,2020,the Constitutional Court clarified that Section 80(2) of the constitution already provides for the 50+1 system of voting but asked legislators to come up with a law that would necessitate a run-off in case no candidate gets over half of the total votes.

This is what has been defeated.

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