Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is today administering parliamentary and Local Government by-elections that will see an estimated 160 476 registered voters casting their votes.
MEC said there are 38 969 voters in the Southern Region where by-elections will be held in Nsanje Lalanje Constituency and Ndirande Makata Ward in Blantyre Malabada Constituency.
The electoral body also said there are a total of 121 507 voters across the four areas in the Central Region, namely Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies and Mtsiriza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency and Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency.
Speaking yesterday after overseeing a pre-inspection exercise of polling materials, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said she was confident her commission would give Malawians a free, fair and credible election.
She expressed joy that all poll stakeholders turned up, were seen working together and were satisfied that all materials were in place.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said she was hopeful the peaceful environment would prevail on voting day.
She said: “It is a good thing that we set aside a day [before elections] to ensure that every material is in place. We even checked whether the generator [at the centre] is working. We started it and we have seen that it is working.
“We also have batteries and gas lamps. This checking has shown everyone that everything is in place for the actual voting.”
Ansah said MEC was firm in ensuring that vote counting be done at all polling centres “in full view of all monitors”. The monitors and MEC presiding officers will sign for the results right at the centres, she added.
As part of electoral reforms results will be presented both in figures and words at the centres to avoid suspicions of manipulation of figures in transit to the main tally centres.
And speaking during a pre-inspection exercise of polling materials yesterday at Makata Primary School in Ndirande Malabada Ward, presiding officer Frank Mukhalipi also assured voters of safety during the polls today, stressing that security is intact.
He said: “We are fully prepared, everything is set. Security is intact and there is nothing that voters should be worried about. The polls will go smoothly as planned.”
When The Nation visited the ward in the morning, the atmosphere was calm and political party representatives from all the contesting parties—Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Democratic Front (UDF), People’s Party (PP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)— expressed satisfaction with the exercise.
Late last week, MEC gave voters assurance of safety in today’s highly anticipated by-elections taking place in the three constituencies and three wards, emphasising that security will be hyped.
In a written response, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the Malawi Police Service (MPS) will be deployed at all polling stations and will arrest and prosecute perpetrators of violent acts as it is a criminal offence.
He stressed that candidates are supposed to abide by a Code of Conduct that they signed and that if anyone breaches the agreements that were made, MEC is in a position to take action depending on the gravity of the offence.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) executive director Steve Duwa yesterday urged contesting parties to observe peace and voters to turn up in their large numbers today to chalk up a record of continued political maturity.
He, however, expressed regret that there were a few cases of political violence reported, particularly over the Nsanje Lalanje campaigning.
Said Duwa: “So far, I have not heard of anybody having been booked for such violence, which should not be acceptable now and as we look forward to the 2019 general elections.”
He commended MEC for doing a commendable job in not only following the electoral calendar but also involving all stakeholders during key stages of the elections process.
By-elections in Lilongwe City South East follow a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal order for a rerun after noting irregularities in the parliamentary race on May 20 2014 whereas in the other five areas the vacancies arose following deaths of office holders.
The court nullified the May 20 2014 parliamentary results in Lilongwe City South East Constituency that declared Bentley Namasusu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) contestant in the elections, Ulemu Msungama, challenged the results on the basis of irregularities, something the court upheld.
Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafik Hajat, in an earlier interview with The Nation last month, said the by-elections stand as a popularity test for two of the contesting parties—DPP and MCP.