CSOs demand referendum on tenure of MPs, Councillors

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have asked Government to let citizens decided in a referendum on whether the tenure of Members of Parliament (MPs) should be extended by a year with parliamentary elections being shifted from 2024 to 2025.

The development follows the Constitutional Court ruling which nullified former President Peter Mutharika’s re-election in the 2019 presidential elections.

Malawi held fresh presidential elections on June 23 where Dr Lazarus Chakwera was elected president. Chakwera’s term ends in 2025 while the tenure of current MPs and Councillors expires in 2024.

This has created a crisis since the parliamentary and local government elections are held together with the presidential elections.

The Constitutional Court through its February ruling directed Parliament to come up with electoral amendment bills aimed at guiding on when the country shall hold the next elections.

But speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Billy Banda of Malawi Watch said it would be ideal for government to engage the citizenry either through a Constitutional forum or referendum before tabling such electoral amendments bills in Parliament.

“If the MPs are to stay in office for longer than their five-year term, it would require the consent of electorates. It would require to convene either a Constitution conference or referendum before tabling such amendments in Parliament since it’s about changing the Constitution,” said Billy Banda.

He further said that any constitutional amendments should not be rushed through in Parliament.

He warned the ruling Malawi Congress Party against taking advantage of its ruling status to pass such bills saying doing so shall tantamount  to ripping a republican constitution.

Ceaser Kondowe, a social commentator, also collaborated Billy Banda’s remarks suggesting that the country should just hold tripartite elections in 2024 to avoid confusion.

On his part, legal expert John Gift Mwakhwawa said that it will be up to Parliament to come up with laws for the country to hold parliamentary and local councils in 2024 separate from presidential elections in 2025 or for the country to have tripartite elections in 2025.

But political expert Rafik Hajat said extending MPs’ tenure would deny an opportunity of development to electorates whose MPs are not delivering saying if the MPs were to amend the Constitution to extend their tenure, they should also reinstate a recall provision so that the MPs who would not deliver should be voted out.

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