By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has noted a number of issues that arise during nomination process that need to be addressed in order to enhance the credibility and seriousness of the process and thus proposes that some changes to the law by demanding that nomination fees should be paid upfront before collection of nomination papers.
This was said by MEC chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah SC during a National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) meeting held on Wednesday at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi.
Ansah said the current laws provide for the Commission to receive the nomination papers in the open and cannot bar someone from bringing their nomination papers.
“But we really need a mechanism that can screen out non-serious characters without infringing on their right to stand in an election.
“This could be at the collection of nomination papers stage. We cannot at the moment demand candidates and political parties to pay their nomination fees upfront before collection of nomination papers because of the intricacies of the law.
“The law requires that the nomination fees should be deposited at the time of submitting the nomination papers. However, if this is changed to the effect that candidates and political parties should be paying their nomination fees before collecting the nomination papers it would surely help to take out jokers,” she said.
She therefore proposes a law reform in this area of the electoral law after also observing that besides providing room for advance examination of nomination papers, some candidates ignore this process and they are elusive.
“These are the ones that also gave challenges during presentation,” she said told the meeting that included principal secretaries, senior government officials and representatives of various government departments and agencies.
Others included representatives of the Malawi Defence Force and the Malawi Police Service; secretaries general of various political parties and chairperson of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), Kandi Padambo and all its board members.
Heads of mission and representatives of development partners and international organisations were also present as well as traditional leaders and members of the Clergy.
She announced that out of the nine candidates who collected nomination papers and expressed readiness to present their nomination papers, MEC has approved three — Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP); Peter Domino Sinosi Driver Kuwani of the Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD and State President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
She took cognizance of the ruling by the Supreme Court on May 8, that said those who contested in 2019 are eligible to contest in this fresh presidential election.
Coincidentally, Ansah said, the candidates who eventually presented the nomination papers are all eligible as all of them contested in the 2019 elections.
MEC also reminded stakeholders that a candidate can be disqualified any day before the polling day should the Commission become aware that the candidate suppressed material facts at the time of nomination which, if they were known, could have led to disqualification.
“The Commission is therefore informing the general public that anyone who wishes to challenge the eligibility of a candidate in the Presidential Election they should follow proper procedures by writing the Commission with substantiated evidence of the ineligibility of the particular candidate.
“Those challenging the eligibility of a candidate on the basis of understanding or interpretation of the law are encouraged to seek opinions of their legal counsel before proceeding with such challenge.
“All stakeholders should also take note that the Commission will not be moved to disqualify any candidate from contesting based on objections raised through phone calls, mainstream or social media, or press briefings of which the Commission has not been properly furnished with details,” she said.