Women lawyers ask court to recommend electoral reforms

The Women Lawyers Association (WLA) Malawi has asked the Constitutional Court to recommend changes in electoral laws so that presidential elections petitions should be concluded before the president-elect is sworn-in.

Lawyer for WLAM Dr Benadetta Malunga made the call when presenting oral submissions for the association.

Currently, a president-elect is sworn-in hours after being declared winner but Malunga said a period should be provided for resolving complaints relating to the presidential polls.

She also recommended that the burden of proof in electoral matters should be dual and this should be stated in applicable laws.

“Once a petitioner successfully proves substantial non-compliance within the applicable laws, the burden should shift to the electoral commission to show that non-compliance did not affect the results,” said Malunga.

Following her submission, one of the five judges hearing the case asked Malunga if it is within the province of the court to make recommendations on electoral laws considering the responsibility of the court under section 9 of the constitution and also the concept of separation of powers.

Malunga said the court has a responsibility to interpret, protect and enforce the constitution and all laws.

“Pointing out gaps in the existing laws is part of protecting the Constitution of Malawi. Where the court notices some gaps that relate to conduct of matters in court, it would be prudent for the court to take that role of making recommendations,” said Malunga.

According to Malunga, the association presented submissions on behalf of female voters saying they were looking at the gender perspective of the elections and representing women who were the majority of registered of voters in the polls.