The resignation of Jane Ansah, the electoral commission boss, has divided Malawians just like their assessment of how she performed her role during last year’s contested election.
The opposition and civil society groups blamed her for the irregularities that undermined the fairness of the poll that elected President Peter Mutharika for a second term. The election was however nullified by judges of the constitutional court and the Supreme Court because of irregularities.
Ms Ansah’s departure should ordinarily pave the way for a new leadership, acceptable to both sides ahead of the election expected to be held on 23 June. But in the short term it appears to have brought more confusion than clarity.
The actual words Ms Ansah used in announcing her departure were: “I have written to the appointing authority tendering my resignation.”
Sceptics believe the “appointing authority” – meaning President Mutharika – will choose not to accept the resignation and the saga will simply continue.
But should President Mutharika agree there will still be more questions to answered:
Who takes over? When? and Will they have time to deliver a free, fair and credible election in less than two months?
According to the law, the head of the electoral commission must be a judge, nominated by the judiciary and formally appointed by the president.
The rest of the electoral commissioners are political party representatives, nominated by parties represented in parliament and formally appointed to the job by the president.
As things stand, it is President Mutharika who will have a big say about what happens next.
He may choose not to act on Ms Ansah’s resignation letter or reject it and allow the political bickering to continue, or he may choose to accept the resignation and, accordingly engage in consultation with the judiciary and opposition parties, to name a commission to take charge of fresh elections.
But that still won’t guarantee the elections will be held.
The country is yet to get all the money it needs for holding the poll at a time when it is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Ansah may have announced she is departing the stage, but Malawi’s political drama is set to continue.