Members of Parliament on government side on Wednesday rejected Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu’s proposal to amend the Referendum Bill such that a president would only call for a referendum after being petitioned by 30 percent of voters.
The House passed the bill without the proposed amendment which was rejected by government legislators who were supported by some People’s Party (PP) members.
The bill among other things provides direction on which matters would be subject to a referendum and states restrictions and conduct of such a vote.
MP for Lilongwe North East Maxwell Thyolera proposed that the bill should be amended to say that a referendum should only be declared after 500 000 registered voters sign a petition supporting the referendum.
Tembenu supported the suggestion and proposed that the number of registered voters should be 1 million saying Malawi’s population is growing.
It was later agreed that the petition should be signed by 30 percent of registered voters and Tembenu again supported the amendment.
But when the proposal was put to the House, MPs rejected it with 92 voting against the amendment and 55 in favour of it.
Commenting on the vote, Karonga Central MP Frank Mwenifumbo said he was surprised to see the government side rejecting a suggestion by their own Minister of Justice.
“There is chaos on that side, I have never seen this before,” he said.