The order for a re-run of the Lilongwe City South East Constituency parliamentary election has MEC combing through electoral laws for its modalities and extending a begging bowl to Treasury for funding.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) yesterday said there are several steps that have to be taken before it decides when and how to conduct the re-run.
Among other things, the commission will have to find out which candidates would be allowed to contest as well as voters who will be eligible.
In addition, MEC will have to wait for Treasury to fund the polls because so far, only the by-elections in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency and Mayani North Ward in Zomba have been funded in the current financial year.
In a response to a questionnaire, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said this being the first time that the commission would be holding a re-run following a court ruling, there was need to study the judgement and electoral laws.
According to Mwafulirwa, for now, MEC was sure that the electoral laws do not mention a time frame for conducting a re-run, hence, they could use the 60-day time frame for conducting a by-election unless the court made a specific mention.
“The commission will provide guidance on how this re-run will be conducted after studying the judgement and the provisions in the current electoral laws,” Mwafulirwa said.
He added: “To that effect, commissioners will meet once we get the judgement to plan on the way forward. As an institution that does not generate its own funding, MEC will be approaching government for funding. MEC appreciates the financial constraints facing the national purse as such the commission will explore cost-effective options of holding the rerun soonest.
Mwafulira said MEC respect the ruling in a case it was party to since it declared Democratic Progressive Party(DPP) candidate Bently Namasasu winner in May 2014 polls against MCP candidate Ulemu Msungama, who challenged the results.
The Supreme Court upheld a ruling of the High Court which declared that the anomalies noted in the election could only be resolved through a re-run.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steven Duwa has said he is not surprised that MEC does not have a ready plan in the eventuality of a re-run when the proposal for a provision of a referendum has just been included in the electoral reforms of the Law Commission.
He said MEC should see this as a lesson and consult the Attorney General on the way forward.
“But money should not be used as an issue now. MEC should just submit a budget to Treasury and defend it. The ruling has been made and it should be complied with,” said Duwa.
Political analyst Mustapha Hussein said it would be a step backward for the country’s democracy if MEC fails to conduct the polls or take long to hold them.
“That will be a dent on our democracy because people will be denied chance to exercise their constitutional right to choose their leader, their interests will also not be represented in Parliament and there will be lack of direction in terms of development,” said Hussein.
MCP deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the party does not expect MEC to drag on the re-run, stressing, people in the area need a legislator of their choice.
“People have been misrepresented for a longtime and it is only right that we go to polls. We expect MEC to speed up the process so that people are properly represented,” said Mkaka.
People’s Party spokesperson Noah Chimpeni said MEC should start looking for funds tohold the re-run.
On his part, United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga said the onus was on MEC to start looking for funds to fulfill its constitutional mandate of holding the by-election within the stipulated time.
There were seven candidates in Lilongwe City South East, including three independents.
(Additional reporting George Singini)