The Malawi Electoral Commission is an independent body established under section 75 of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi. The Commission is responsible for conducting free, fair, transparent and accessible elections in Malawi. In addition to the Constitution, the Commission also derives its mandate from the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act of 1998, the Local Government Elections Act of 1996 and the Electoral Commission Act of 1998.
The Commission comprises the Chairperson and not less than six other Commissioners. The Chairperson is a judge nominated by the Judicial Service Commission. Other members are appointed by the President in consultation with leaders of political parties represented in parliament (MEC Act)
The Commissioners are required to perform their functions independent of the direction or interference of any public office, any political party, any candidate or any person or organization.
The Commission has a mandate to do the following;
To provide general direction and supervision over the conduct of any election i.e. Parliamentary and Presidential Elections, By-elections, Local Government Elections and Referenda.
The legal framework gives the following responsibilities to the Commission: Determine number of constituencies and wards; supervise the demarcation of boundaries; organize and direct the registration of voters; devise and establish, print distribute and take charge of the voters’ register and ballot papers; establish and operate polling centres; ensure that necessary security conditions are established during elections, promote public awareness of electoral matters and conduct civic and voter education; promote the conduct of research in electoral matters.
The Commission can establish service committees to enable it to discharge its duties effectively. These committees are determined by the Commission from time to time and are chaired by the Commissioners.
The Commission is assisted in carrying out day to day activities by a Secretariat that is headed by a Chief Elections Officer. The Chief Elections Officer works under the direction and supervision of the Commission.
In line with the MEC 2005-2009 Strategic Plan, the Commission is in the process of reviewing its organogram to match with its specific functions.
Under the proposed organogram the MEC will be divided into two complementary sections: Elections Management (which deals with the core functions of conducting elections) and Support (which assists the MEC to carry out its core functions). The two sections will report to the Commission through the Chief Elections Officer.
Electoral Services Department
This department provides support to the regional offices and through them to the district offices, and coordinates their activities. This coordination and support is particularly essential during an electoral event, such as registration or polling, when the department acts as the communications hub between headquarters and the field offices, and assists in resolving any issues arising in the field operation. The logistics unit plays a significant role within this department, controlling warehouse and stores, and working with the security department to effect secure and efficient distribution and retrieval of materials.
The department also deals with the development of best practices and procedures for various phases and events of the electoral processes, designing, reviewing and revising procedures, demarcation of wards and constituencies, process candidate nomination, administration of elections complaints, queries and appeals, and all other such electoral administration.
Civic and Voter education
The department deals with civic and voter education policy and research, the development, production and distribution of civic and voter education messages and programmes; identification and development of civic education providers, development of the code of conduct for accredited NGOs: supervision, monitoring and evaluation of service providers. Liaising with service providers in the provision of C&VE such political parties, chiefs, NGO’s, faith based groups.
Media and Public Relations
Head of Media and Public Relations acts as a spokesperson for the Commission. He/she also deals with the media on all issues relating to the electoral process. It also provides general public information about electoral issues, through various media including the MEC website.
In short the department liaises with stakeholders on all issues relating to the MEC and to electoral events, and organizes other public relations activities. In its liaison with the press, it organises press conferences, produces press releases, and provides the first port of call for media information.
Between electoral events, the training department, together with the human resources department, is responsible for assessing the capacity building needs of the MEC staff, and for developing and organising a capacity building program. However, in the lead-up to an electoral event, the focus changes to operational training: the training department prepares and produces operational training materials, and organises the cascade training from the MEC Headquarters through the regional and district election offices to the polling stations. MEC trainers conduct train-the-trainer sessions, and monitor training conducted throughout the cascade.
The Support Section comprises the following departments:
This department deals with all procurement items for the MEC. This includes both elections materials and normal day to day materials. The section ensures that all specified materials are procured according to proper procedures, in correct quantities and quality, and are distributed efficiently to the intended users.
The finance department, one of the largest MEC departments, deals with the disbursement of all MEC funds and ensures transparency and accountability in all its financial dealings.
Administration and Human Resources
The department deals with all administrative matters for the MEC, including transport, vehicle maintenance, secretarial work, the registry, reprographics, and buildings and general maintenance. It also supports graphic design, and the MEC library. The Human Resources department, which is a semi-autonomous department acting within the ambit of the Administration department, covers all issues relating to staff including their recruitment, welfare, capacity development, pensions, and insurance.
The ICT Section provides accurate and efficient business productivity computer based systems, and ensures that all ICT related equipment is in good working condition. It provides advice to MEC an all ICT issues to ensure timely and appropriate solutions for electoral processes, undertakes ICT activities in such areas as voter registration, tallying and consolidation of election results, and production of the final results, and maintains all the MEC databases, including the voters roll.
The funds of the commission are appropriated by parliament, but the MEC also relies on grants, donations, and voluntary contributions, often from international donors.
The Commission works closely with various stakeholders, including political parties, donors, government, NGOs/CSOs, faith based groups, youth groups, women’s groups, traditional leaders and projects.
In undertaking its work the Commission liaises with other Electoral Management Bodies within the SADC and African Union. This liaison often takes the form of electoral observer missions, provision of professionals to assist in other elections, and visits to other EMBs.
The MEC aims to build the capacity of its staff in all areas, ranging from office skills to elections management, and devises ongoing courses and mentoring to assist in this. Commissioners and staff undergo training at both local and international levels, funded by donors and the government