Malawi's legal fraternity is questioning the manner in which the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has, secretly, submitted more than one nominee to the appointing authority - Head of State - for the position of the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
The MEC chairperson position is currently vacant following the resignation of Jane Ansah.
JSC has submitted four names for which President Peter Mutharika will appoint next MEC chairperson.
Renowned private practice lawyer Khumbo Soko ignited the debate on social media, writing: "We have a needless culture of secrecy here. The JSC should have made public the names it has submitted to the President for appointment as EC members. Same with [political] parties."
Some legal minds concurred with Soko.
Qatar-based legal practitioner Timothy Nundwe commented: "This is why there is no accountability within the public service. All democratic countries are running accountable public institutions but in Malawi we still maintain the secrecy of the colonial governors."
Reports indicate that the JSC submitted four names before the President but both the JSC and State House have kept a tight lid on the names.
Another private practice lawyer, Trevor Chimimba, has questioned why JSC submitted more than one nominee.
He wrote: "Why is the JSC submitting more than one nominee? The Constitution says the chairperson shall be nominated by the JSC not candidates for the chair. And then we complain that the President has too much power."
Reacting to this, Constitutional law expert Edge Kanyongolo of the University of Malawi's Chancellor College, said the move is totally strange.
He wrote: "This is not just strange, but unconstitutional and thus probably invalid."
Malawi electoral laws, apart from empowering JSC to nominate a judge to be appointed MEC chairperson, also empower JSC to nominate MEC commissioners, not being less than six, provided by the parties.
According to University of Malawi's Chancellor College law professor Garton Kamchedzera, the minimum number of commissioners, as the law provides, is six, but this number can shoot depending on political parties that have qualified to make nominations.
The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) will share the number of MEC commissioners as they are the only parties represented in Parliament that qualify to submit names of candidates as per the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Act 2017.
The country is scheduled to hold the court-ordered fresh presidential election within 150 days from February 3 2020.
MEC recently set June 23 as polling date.
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