By Duncan Mlanjira
In accordance with section 8 (1)(m) of the Electoral Commission Act, it is incumbent on on Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) ‘to take measures and to do such other things as are necessary for conducting free and fair elections’.
This was said by MEC chairperson, Justice Chifundo Kachale on Thursday during the opening of a two-day Electoral Reforms Review Conference at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe, saying MEC is geared to play a leading role in electoral law reform which it has embarked on. is one of the activities that this Commission has embarked on.
He applauded the organisers of the conference, National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust, saying the initiative will complement the process that MEC has already commissioned to review the current legal framework and propose areas of reform.
He announced that MEC has established two key committees to assist in the better carrying into effect of its function, which were added to the number of committees that were established by MEC’s 5th Cohort.
“This Commission has established the Legal Services Committee and the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee,” he said.
“The Commission remains cognizant of the fact that electoral processes are legal in nature and such there is need to have in place a legal framework that streamlines the processes while also bringing certainty in the process.
“One of such observation for example is the judgement from Judge Kenyatta in 2014 about the adequacy of seven days as the time which the Commission should determine the results.
“People are eager to hear the results while stakeholders already have results and, in the end, people wonder why the Commission is taking too long to release the results.”
He added that MEC is tasked by the law to look at the results from each polling station and that if it requires the Commission to vet the results already verified by returning offices that are signed off by political party representations and observers, why should MEC repeat the same process.
“Why don’t we have trust in our own systems? It is important that as we propose reforms to the legal systems, it is important to reflect on why we need those reforms.
“Is the problem the system or its part of cultural problem? Is diligence and unreasonable suspicion one and the same thing?
“When people have so little trust in their own system; is the solution amending the system or creating ways that enable people to have confidence in the system?
“It’s not all of always a legal problem. So as a Commission, we would like very much to have a say in the electoral agenda reform drive.”
Justice Kachale said he personally believes that, while MEC has an internal perspective of the electoral laws reform agenda as an electoral management body, they are conscious that the success of democratic governance depends on the existence of both a robust state and a healthy and active civil society.
“Robust echelons of civic engagement are an essential element of participatory governance which today increasingly focuses on creating inclusive and responsive democratic institutions and increasing opportunities for citizen voice.
“Therefore, we applaud efforts being undertaken by NICE and other stakeholders in electoral law reforms,” he said.