MPs want Political Parties Act amended

MPs want Political Parties Act amended

Members of Parliament (MPs) have called for an amendment or repeal of the Political Parties Act which provides for the regulation of political parties.

Ironically, the Act was passed in Parliament just prior to the most recent 2019 Tripartite Elections in 2018 following concerns of political party financing and handouts during elections campaign period, among others.

Reacting to a ministerial statement by Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo, Mangochi South MP Lillian Patel, who is also opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) acting president, asked the minister for the amendment or repeal of the law.

Said Patel: “This thing [law] cannot work. Those who insisted on having this Bill failed to even come back to this House. So, my advice to the minister is to amend this law.”

Mvalo: They are the ones who passed it

On his part, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua argued that there is need to clearly spell out the definition of handouts.

He also warned his fellow MPs on the need to be thorough to ensure that the laws made do not come back to haunt them.

Said Kalua: “When making the laws we have to be careful what we are doing and make laws that will stand for all seasons than making laws that come back to haunt us.”

Similarly, Mulanje Bale MP Victor Musowa (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) wondered how the operationalisation of the law will ensure that people in communities know when the button has been pressed for not receiving handouts.

“It is confusing how the same law will allow you to give handouts now and then tell you to stop during the campaign,” he wondered.

Musowa further noted that Malawians are poor to give handouts, arguing: “How will you punish someone who is poor for giving a handout to another poor person. Isn’t these two poor people helping each other? We need to seriously look at this law and carefully amend it.”

But Mvalo expressed surprise that the Act was passed in 2018 by the same MPs who today have turned against it.

Said the minister: “I was not there when they were  passing the law. All I did was to bring regulations to the law in December 2020. Today I was sort of reminding them of the regulations on the bribery or handouts which members do not like and I wonder why?”

He stated that it is a criminal offence for any political party not to declare their source of financing, and that the law puts criminal liability on the secretaries general of political parties for failure to comply with the law.

Mvalo thus implored secretaries general of various political parties to ensure that full compliance is met, or risk finding themselves behind bars for non-compliance.

He explained: “My ministry recognises the importance of ensuring the implementation of the Political Parties’ Act and ensuring compliance on political parties financing and handouts.

“The registrar of political parties is also in the process of developing regulations on prohibition of campaign handouts. Consultations on the draft regulations to embrace this will soon be finalised. This culture puts political parties and candidates under pressure for resources to impress potential voters.”

The minister argued that handouts expose politicians to corruption as well as advance capture at the hands of corrupt businesspersons.

The Political Parties Act was formulated to establish a fair and competitive environment for political parties and ensure that the organisation and operation of political parties comply with the principles of democracy to establish a healthy and robust party-based political process.

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