Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has pegged at K43 billion the cost of a fresh presidential election the High Court of Malawi sitting as a Constitutional Court ordered to be held within 150 days from February 3 2020.
The estimated budget, contained in the proposed calendar for the fresh presidential election, is K1 billion shy of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In a sworn statement in support of the electoral body’s application for the court to put aside enforcement of the judgement that nullified the May 21 presidential election over alleged mismanagement and irregularities, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah is also seeking an extension from 150 days to at least 261 days.
The MEC chairperson, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, submits that the Constitutional Court, in its judgement, disregarded the fact that an election requires funding and preparations when it prescribed the 150 days time-frame.
Reads Ansah’s statement: “As a commission, we are of the view that the election can only be held within at least 261 days on October 28 2020 if we operate on an expedited calendar.
“The budget for the fresh election has been estimated at K43 733 950 500.”
Malawi Government spent about K44 billion on the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections that involved seven presidential candidates, 1 331 parliamentary candidates, 2 615 local government aspirants and about 6 859 570 voters. There are 193 parliamentary constituencies and 462 local government wards in the country.
The number of presidential candidates in the fresh election will be known after aspirants formally submit their nomination papers.
In an interview on Monday, Treasury spokesperson Davies Sado indicated that the question of financing the fresh election would be addressed in Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha’s Mid-Year Budget Review Statement this Friday.
He said: “Let the nation wait a bit for the minister’s statement.”
Parliament on Monday started meeting for the Mid-Year Budget Review in Lilongwe.
The expedited calendar included in Ansah’s statement shows that MEC requires a minimum of 25 days to procure and deliver voter registration and polling materials and at least 10-days for production of civic and voter education materials.
She also said MEC would need 30 days to conduct civic and voter education meetings with traditional leaders and at least five days to recruit constituency civic and voter education assistants (CCVEAs).
Further, Ansah says the commission would need 118 days for civic and voter education mobilisation.
The beleaguered electoral body has also proposed 78 days for registration of voters to be split in six phases of 14 days each and five days for production of a voters’ roll.
Ansah also indicates that MEC would need 26 days to distribute civic and voter education materials and inspect voters register.
She has set two days for receipt of nomination papers and one day for the commission to assess the candidates’ submissions and October 28 2020 as the voting date.
Meanwhile, the High Court has shifted to tomorrow hearing of an application by MEC, which was the second respondent in the presidential election nullification petition.
Initially, hearing was set for today, but the court has shifted following failure by lawyers representing MEC to submit in time the relevant documents.
But Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, who is representing the electoral body, on Monday feigned ignorance on the development. He said he was yet to be briefed about the change.
He said: “I am hearing from you. I heard that when my lawyers went to court, there were no clerks, but I have not been informed of the shifting.”
But Agnes Patemba, registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, on Monday confirmed the change.
She said the change was necessitated because lawyers representing the petitioners—UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera—sought more time to review documents filed by MEC lawyers.
Said Patemba: “The same five judges who heard the electoral case will hear the matter. Lawyers for the petitioners asked for more time. It will be on Wednesday 8.30am in Lilongwe.”
Khumbo Soko, one of the lawyers representing first petitioner Chilima, also confirmed making the request for more time, saying they were served the documents late by MEC lawyers.
He said: “They served us at 3pm when the court said 8am on Saturday. So, we didn’t have adequate time to review them.” Both MEC and President Peter Mutharika, the first respondent, are due to appeal the historic ruling of the Constitutional Court which faulted the management of the May 21 elections.