MALAWI ELECTORAL COMMISSION
MESSAGE FROM CHAIRPERSON OF THE ELECTORAL SERVICES COMMITTEE, MRS JEAN CHIFUNIRO MATHANGA
ON LAUNCH OF 1 NOVEMBER 2016 BY-ELECTION
Greetings my fellow Malawians.
I present myself before you to announce that the Malawi Electoral Commission has prepared to hold by-elections on November 1, 2016 in one constituency and four wards which have been without representation. The areas are as follows:
The vacancy in Mchinji West Constituency arose because of the death of MP, Hon Burton Kanjira Banda on March 13 in 2016. The Commission had initially planned to hold the by-elections in this area on May 10, 2016 but funding was not available and this coincided with the end of term for the former Commission and also government financial year.
In Kaliyeka, Sadzi and Bunda wards the vacancies also arose due to the deaths of the councilors who were duly elected in 2014.
Bembeke ward in Dedza has fallen vacant because of the conviction of the Councillor for the ward on a case bordering on moral turpitude and dishonesty. Let me register a concern from the Commission regarding dishonesty by elected public officers. Elected public officers should appraise themselves with the law and avoid conduct that can lead to them losing their elected positions. Conduct of by-elections is also a drain on public resources and we are all not strangers to how constrained our resource envelope has become in recent years. We are pleased to announce that government has finally released funding to allow MEC to conduct by-elections.
Having said that allow me to give you some details about the November 1, 2016 by-elections.
Voter Verification and Registration
The Commission will open centres for registration and voter verification from 12th to 16th October 2016. Centres will be open from 8AM to 4PM throughout the period.
The Commission will register first-time voters only. These are those who have attained the age of 18 after May 20, 2016 or will turn 18 by November 1, 2016. The Commission will not register anyone who was eligible to register during the last registration exercise but failed to do so for whatever reason or reasons. The Commission will also not accept transfers.
All registered voters for the May 20, 2016 elections, whether they voted or not, they have to verify their details in the voters’ roll at the centre they registered. If they transferred, they should verify at the centre they transferred to.
Registered voters who lost their voter certificates should go to the centre where they registered to get a replacement certificate that will enable them to vote on November 1, 2016.
Ladies and Gentlemen, take note that people from other constituencies or wards where elections are not taking place are not allowed to register.
Nomination of candidates
All candidates, including those who participated in past elections, need to get the nomination papers again. The Nomination papers will be available from the Constituency or Ward Returning Officers or the District Commissioners from 3rd October, 2016.
The Commission will receive the Nomination Papers from all candidates on 17 October, 2016 in the respective Constituency or Ward Returning Officers offices.
The official campaign period shall start on 20th October, 2016. As per requirement of the law, campaign shall end at 06.00AM on 30th October, 2016.
During this period I urge all candidates and political parties to refrain from inflammatory language because this causes violence and violate other people’s rights. Candidates should dwell on issues and facts.
Polling and vote counting
My fellow Malawians, polling will take place on 1st November, 2016 starting from 6.00AM up to 6.00PM.
Vote counting will start immediately after polling at the polling centres and results shall be tallied at the Teacher Development Centre (TDC). The Commission is expected to announce the results on 4th November, 2016 at the tally centre to be established in Blantyre.
We have a new Commission appointed on 6th June 2016 and this will be their first election to manage. Let me assure you that the Commission is eager to deliver free, fair and credible elections. However, they will need the support of all stakeholders.
Our observation and even statistics from the past show that political rallies of all candidates are well attended but turnout has been on the decline. Leaders of political parties should work with the Commission to turn around these statistics. They should encourage their members to participate in the process up to the polling day. The members should show allegiance to their parties and candidates by showing up for voting for candidates of their choice.
We have also noticed declined participation of civil society in by-elections activities including civic and voter education. Elections are cycle and we need their active participation even during by-elections. The Civil Society Organizations should help the Commission to mobilize the public to participate effectively in elections. They should also be nonpartisan and should treat all political players equally.
Let me also at this point encourage women to take part in these by-elections by contesting as candidates. The women representation in parliament and at local council is still worrisome. We should be striving to achieve the 50-50 campaign for women representation in parliament and local council.
A special appeal goes to Traditional and faith leaders to ensure that they encourage their subjects to participate in electoral activities. They should not show favouritism and create no-go-zones for political parties or candidates. Rather they should encourage their subjects to attend rallies of all candidates during the campaign period.
My fellow citizens, in conclusion I should also announce that the Commission will hold stakeholders meetings and launch the by-elections in the five areas on Monday, 3rd October, 2016 from 8.30AM as follows:
The Commission is inviting all stakeholders including leaders of political parties, aspiring candidates, leaders of civil society organizations, traditional leaders and the general public to attend. During these meetings the Commission will give detailed information on the by-elections and also release the full calendar for the by-elections.
May God, the Almighty bless you and bless our nation.