On 24th August 2016 the Malawi Electoral Commission announced that it has postponed the launch of by-electionsinMchinji West Constituency and 4 wards;kaliyeka ward in Lilongwe City South East, SadzI in Zomba Central, Bunda in Kasungu Central and Bembekein Dedza South.
The Commission arrived at this decision because it said it has few issues to address. Firstly, there is an issue of funding for the by-elections.Treasury withdrew fundingfor conducting the by-elections citing the alleged mismanagement of funds at the Commission.The Treasury said it would not release funding until MEC takes action of audit queries raised in an investigative audit report conducted by the Ministry of Finance.
It should be mentioned that one of the recommendations that was made at the steering committee meeting of Malawi Electoral Cycle Supportin May 2016 was that the Commission should send some of its senior staff on administrative leave to pave way for the Audit team which has now been set up to review the audit responses presented by the Commission. Following this recommendation the Commission sent on administrative leave some of its senior staff including the Chief Elections Officer on the day it postponed the by-elections.
This is a clear demonstration of commitment by the Commission to ensure that it adheres to the recommendations made at the MECS meeting. The Commission will continue to engage stakeholders at all level as it believes in consultation while remaining transparent and independent when discharging its duties. The Commission does this to ensure that it delivers credible elections in accordance with national laws and international best practices to strengthen genuine democracy and peace in Malawi.
There has been a lot of talk about these by-elections considering that it has taken long for the Commission to conduct them, especially the Mchinji West Constituency vacancy.
The nation should be assured that the by-elections will take place at a date to be announced soon. The postponement of the by-elections shouldn’t stop preparations for by-elections by political parties and contesting candidates. People should remember that by-elections unlike general elections do not require a longer timeframe to prepare. As long as funds are made available a by-election can be conducted even within two months’ time.
The initial plan for the postponed by-elections was that they be conducted within two months; the same is likely to happen once the new date for the by-elections has been set.
The Malawi Electoral Commission is equally concerned that people in the areas where the by-elections were supposed to take place do not have representation at national assembly and at district council respectively. It is the interest of MEC to hold the by-elections as soon as possible; however the Commission cannot do this without funding.This is not the first time by-elections have been postponed.
Eligible voters in the areas where these by-elections shall take place are being reminded that voter registration for by-elections is only for those that have turned the age of 18 or shall turn the age of 18 by the day people shall be going to the polls. Those that already registered are being encouraged that once voter verification exercise commences they should to go to where they registered to check their bio-data. Those that lost their voter certificates are also being encouraged to go to where they registered to be issued with a temporary voter certificate.