The fate of fresh presidential election slated for July 2 hangs in balance after Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah conceded on Friday that it might be difficult to conduct the polls due to coronavirus pandemic.
She said the outbreak—which has resulted in President Peter Mutharika declaring a State of Disaster—might impact of the process leading to the electoral body failing to conduct the election within the timeframe of 150 days as stipulated by the Constitutional Court (Concourt) on February 3.
“Most of the voting materials are imported from other countries which are hard hit by coronavirus. Therefore, imagine these countries continue registering more coronavirus cases can we manage to conduct the election? Obviously no!” Ansah said.
She said this in Mangochi during the second National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof).
The meeting—which drew together political party representatives and electoral stakeholders—was held to share activities the electoral body has planned following the launch of the elections last Tuesday in Blantyre.
Explained Ansah: “We are still committed to hold fresh elections and that’s why we are here today. However, if the pandemic worsens, we might have no other option than to put on the election on hold.”
The underfire MEC chairperson said much as the issue of election is critical, the coronavirus outbreak is so severe that the electoral body cannot ignore the impact it is having globally.
“I am not saying issues of election should be neglected or put aside, but we have to weigh between safeguarding a life and doing the elections at our own peril,” she said.
Ansah said MEC expect to spend K34 billion on the elections, and is doing all it can to ensure its staff and electoral stakeholders are safe.
She has since called on electoral stakeholders, including political parties, to take a lead in promoting measures that would control the spread of the virus.
When asked their views whether to suspend the election or not due to the coronavirus threat, the stakeholders said they need to consult health experts.
“We are not health experts. We can’t tell if this virus has an implication worth suspension of the election or not. We will give our position after we make consultation,” said Kandi Padambo, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) chairperson.