The Malawi Electoral Commission is reading itself to conduct a comprehensive demarcation of wards and constituencies to address the inconsistencies that have creeped in over years whereby some constituencies have high number of voters.
In preparation for this important exercise, a one-day workshop was organized to update the Commissioners on the road map to the demarcation process on 5th August, 2020 in Lilongwe.
The Commission is new having been appointed into office on 7 June, 2020 and went straight to business by managing the Fresh Presidential Election held on 23 June 2020.
In his opening remarks MEC chairman, Justice Dr Chifundo Kachale said the demarcation process is a fundamental step in preparation for the next general elections to be held in 2024 or 2025 if Parliament will amend the law accordingly.
“The nation is eagerly waiting for this demarcation exercise. You can testify to this because even during the outreach meetings that we have been having, issues of demarcation have always been surfacing,” he said.
The last demarcation exercise was conducted in 1998 where the Commission considered only constituencies which were glaringly large. The understanding was that a full demarcation exercise would be conducted after the 1999 elections.
With passage of time the situation shows glaring differences in population size of constituencies. This is against the constitutional provision constituencies should be almost equal in size of eligible voters.
The law says when conducting demarcation, the Commission should use the number of eligible voters and not the actual registered voters in an area.
The national census was conducted in 2018 and its report was ready in 2019 but the Commission could not immediately embark on the demarcation exercise because the court ordered for a fresh presidential election to be held within 150 days from 3rd February, 2020.
“Stakeholders understood this but now that the elections are over, all eyes are on the Electoral Commission and the demarcation process.
“The workshop we are having today is meant to prepare and acquaint the Commission and management with the demarcation process,” he said.
The workshop focused on all matters that are critical to the demarcation process including the law and the technicalities.
The MEC chairman observed that demarcation of wards and constituencies is a very politically sensitive process whereby accusations and counter accusations will always arise.
“The Commission needs to be well grounded in the law and in scientific procedures of arriving at its decisions so that they can easily be defend them from either angle the attack comes,” he advised.
The Malawi Electoral Commission is mandated, under Section 76 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, to:
A. determine constituency boundaries impartially on the basis of ensuring that constituencies contain approximately equal numbers of voters eligible to register, subject only to considerations:
B.review existing constituency boundaries at intervals of not more than five years and alter them in accordance with the principles laid down in subsection 2(a) above.