Malawi: CSO platform demands wider consultations on electoral reforms

AGORA moderator's picture
A grouping of several Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) calling itself Civil Society Platform on Electoral Reforms says the manner in which the process on the proposed electoral reform bill is being handled is not fair and just to Malawians.
The sentiments are contained in a joint statement signed by nine representatives of these CSOs stating that the public which parliament represents was not well consulted on the matter.
Some notable signatories of the statement are Luther Mambala of Malawi Congress for Trade Union (MCTU), Chikumbutso Mtumodzi of Forum for National Development (FND) and Carol Mvalo of Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA).
The statement says it is not feasible for parliament to table, debate, and enact all proposed reforms at once.
It adds that considering the vested public interest in the bills, it is imperative that the majority of Malawians should be conversant with what is being proposed.
“It is vital to that we appreciate the oversight, representative and law making functions that parliament has on these bills.
“We should not just wish that parliament rubber stamps the bills as proposed by the Law Commission but should be subjected to objective debate,” reads the statement.
The CSOs grouping feels that the political undertones and pressure being exerted on the bill by certain quarters does not create a health environment for such a debate.
The statement further notes that the Law Commission report and recommendations are not binding.
The CSOs further warn that in a situation whereby a bill is tabled and certain elements are not accepted, the possibility of revolt and failure to accept the outcome of such a debate would be high.
“As citizens, it is very difficult to accept that members of parliament would be objective and impartial in debating this bill. Most of them no longer represent the views of the people that elected them but their political parties,” reads part of the statement.
The CSOs say it is saddening to note that not very few Malawians are aware of the contents of the bill, some of which have repercussions on the peace of this country.
“There are huge misconceptions on the reforms being proposed as only one aspect of the proposal is being highlighted leaving out other major proposals which are not in the public domain.
“There is a wider perception that the reforms are only talking about 50+1 issue of electing the President while there are other major issues. This misunderstanding is a justification that many people are not aware of the contents of the bill,” it says.
According to the statement, the Malawi Law Commission report showed that they had three regional consultation meetings of selected stakeholders. The report also indicates that in the southern region they had consultations with 43 people and 46 each for central and northern regions.
In its national consultative meeting, the Law Commission had 35 participants meaning that less than 200 Malawians out of the 18 million Malawians were consulted on the electoral reforms.
The Commission’s report also shows that they only had two Traditional Chiefs, Paramount Lundu and Inkosi ya Makosi Gomani who attended the national conference yet Malawi has over 100 full traditional chiefs plus senior and paramount chiefs.
From this basis, the statement says this is not a true reflection of the views and aspirations of Malawians as a country.
As part of its demands on the proposed bill, the CSOs say there is need for wider consultations on the electoral reform bill rather than attaching emotions and anger for the purposes of satisfying political interests.