Monday, January 14, 2008

Government ponders on tripartite elections

Government says it is discussing the possibility of pushing for a bill in parliament to accommodate tripartite elections, minister Justice and Constitution Affairs Henry Phoya said.

Malawi is yet to hold the Local Government Elections which were due two years ago and in 14 months time the country is expected to hold presidential and Parliamentary elections.

Political establishments have been calling for the tripartite elections to ease the pressure of holding two elections within two years.

Phoya said government was discussing the issue but said it has not come up with a position yet.

“The discussions have not been crystallize yet, but it is government’s responsibility to formulate such kind of bills,” he said.

Phoya said in so far as it is becoming increasingly clear that Local Government elections cannot possibly be held before May 2009, Government would seem to share the view that tripartite elections represent the most practical solution to the current situation.

“If we can have a duly constituted Electoral Commission before the end of the first quarter of this year, at the latest, I do not see why we cannot hold orderly and internationally accepted elections, be they
tripartite or otherwise, in 2009,” he said.

Phoya said the major advantage of having tripartite elections is, obviously, the potential to make a huge saving in terms of expenses on the part of Government and those who normally assist us with such expenses.

“On the minus side, some commentators have cited the difficulties that some of our less than literate voting populace would have in distinguishing and identifying all three candidates of their choice at a given polling

“In my view, this argument appears to grossly underestimate the natural intelligence of some of our people, even in the rural areas, and I do not fully subscribe to it,” he said.

However Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI) Executive Director Rafik Hajat said while he would go for the tripartite elections there were a number of issues that has to be considered before parliament would endorse the idea.

Hajat warned government to tread carefully because tripartite elections would be a pre-requisite for a huge mess, if the situation leading to the country’s general elections in 2009 would not change.

“We have to look at the capacity of electoral commission, the independence of the commission. We need to put very strong registrations on use of public resources,” he said.

IPI is one of the institutions that have been propagating for the tripartite elections. According to Hajat parliament has not reacted to the draft bill that were presented to the legal committee of the house that high light important issues to considered before switching to tripartite elections.

“There is no enough time for the civic education, for the new voter roll and campaigning for the president, member of parliaments and counselor would be too much and theme would be fanatic,” he said.

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) spokesperson Fegus Lipenga, was quoted in the press that Mec would be able to handle tripartite elections if parliament would pass the bill.

Mec is rocked in political turmoil where opposition political parties drugged president to court over the appointment of Commissioners for the commission.

President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed, eight commissioners to replace those, whose term had expired but opposition UDF and MCP took the issue to court saying they were not consulted.

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