Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) decision to indefinitely postpone by-elections initially set for June 6 due to lack of funds has come under fire from analysts who argue that the move disenfranchises people in the affected areas.
MEC told stakeholders in Lilongwe yesterday that Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo had communicated to them that there were no funds for by-elections in Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies and a ward each in Dedza and Lilongwe districts until the next budget set to roll out on July 1.
In an interview yesterday, Botolo said funds for the by-elections were readily available, but have since been channelled towards other issues to avoid serious calamities in future.
He said: “The funds were available, but then we had the fall of army worms and then there are no medicines in the hospitals. So, we decided that before any outcry has been made, we should use the money that is available to buy the medicines and cater for any impact that may come forth.”
Responding to an inquiry by The Nation on the development, analysts said the decision will have a broad implication on the voters who will be negatively affected by lack of representation.
An associate professor of law at Chancellor College, Edge Kanyongolo, said in an interview yesterday the affected parties have the right to seek legal redress on the issue as stipulated in the Constitution.
He said: “The Constitution in Section 41 gives every person the right to seek judicial remedy whenever their right or legitimate expectations are affected.
“Therefore, the immediate remedy I can think of is an application for a judicial review asking the High Court to review the Malawi Electoral Commission’s decision to postpone the by-election.”
Rights activist Rafiq Hajat, executive director for the Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI), said by saying there were no funds to finance the by-elections, government was failing the citizenry that put it in power.
Said Hajat: “The government is ruling by virtue of the Constitution and if it starts complaining that it has no money for elections, then it is absolutely ridiculous because it is supposed to rule in favour of the citizens.”
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the by-elections budget is estimated at K400 million.
She said: “We [MEC] rely on government through the Treasury [to fund us] and they have told us that there is no money until the next budget is passed.”
Besides Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies, by-elections were also expected to be held in Mayani North Ward in Dedza North constituency and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West constituency.
Yesterday, stakeholders were expecting MEC to launch the by-elections only to learn from Ansah that the date has been indefinitely changed. n