Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) does not anticipate the funding deficit to interrupt the scheduled July 2 presidential election following the withdrawal of support by traditional benefactor United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview on Friday that despite the UNDP’s stand not to offer direct funding, the elections will proceed with government resources.
On Thursday, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the commission had a funding deficit of K8 billion to successfully manage the fresh poll following the pulling out of UNDP’s support due to alleged lack of a legal framework to run the polls and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I cannot say if we will be able to hold the election on July 2 or not. Let us cross the bridge when we get there,” said Ansah while insisting the 150 days the Constitutional Court [ConCourt] gave for the fresh elections were not enough to organise a well-managed election.
But on Friday Mwafulirwa said: “The elections are fully funded by government. Any deficit will mean government coming in.”
Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda, without providing finer details, said Treasury was still discussing with development partners on the issue of presidential election funding.
On her part, the United Nations resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres said in a written response they are ready and committed to support the democratic environment in Malawi.
She said: “The UN in Malawi, in response to a request from Malawian officials and in close partnership with development partners, has been engaged in supporting national institutions, notably MEC, as well as other relevant stakeholders for the different electoral cycles since the transition to the multiparty democracy in 1994. This is also the case for the current electoral cycle of 2017-2020.”
Torres explained that as a standard practice the UN/UNDP provides technical support and not direct funding upon request by the national institutions and after assessing that the conditions are conducive, including the political and legal frameworks, for impartial technical advice.
“Funding for UN electoral support is usually provided by development partners. The UN has been following the developments to the ruling by the Supreme Court on the fresh presidential elections which addresses some of the outstanding issues and defines the next steps in the current electoral cycle,” she said.in Malawi including issues related
Economist Betchani Tcheleni from The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), observed that elections were costly and the ConCourt order for fresh elections has caught the country unawares.
“As a country, we plan for five years before holding elections in which case budgeting is properly done. However, this time government has had to take resources from elsewhere within the national budget to cater for fresh elections with the hope that development partners would offer support.
“But the current scenario where we have an K8 billion deficit will make things difficult for the country to run the election effectively,” he explained.
Tcheleni, however, noted lack of enough resources to hold fresh polls might result in challenges including irregularities.
“So we need enough resources to effectively manage the polls and ensure nobody finds a scapegoat that the irregularities occurred due to insufficient funding,”
MEC pegged the fresh elections at K43.7 billion but Parliament during the 2019/20 Mid-Year Budget Review only approved about K29.1 billion for the activity.
During the May 2019 Tripartite Elections, government spent about K44 billion to organise the disputed event that involved seven presidential candidates, 1 331 parliamentary candidates, 2 615 local government aspirants and about 6 859 570 voters in 193 parliamentary constituencies and 462 local government wards across the country.