Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Chifundo Kachale and two key stakeholders have warned people against violence during today’s by-elections in two parliamentary constituencies and a Local Government ward.
In a statement issued yesterday ahead of the by-elections in Karonga Central and Lilongwe North West constituencies and Makhuwira South Ward in Chikwawa, the MEC chairperson: “I want to encourage fellow Malawians to maintain peace while votes will be counted and during announcement of the results.
“If someone will have grievances, let them report such to relevant authorities at the polling centres or to the district commissioner.”
The call against violence register their point of view and the President was very glad to be able to engage with them directly on that matter in consistence with his position which he articulated before Parliament on September 10th when he was asked about the same.
“President Chakwera came out clear on that one, about his approach to foreign policy being dictated simply and only by the advancement of national interest of Malawi.
“That does not mean that if Malawi has bilateral relations with one nation, it cannot have relations with the other. The President is fully supportive of the peace process and the relationship between Israel and Palestine.”
When he appeared before Parliament in September to answer questions from legislators, Chakwera
Affairs Committee (PAC) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) who held a press conference in Lilongwe where they asked candidates to concede defeat or follow proper ways of challenging results if not satisfied.was also echoed by Public
PAC publicity secretary Gilford Matonga expressed sadness with cases of violence that left some people injured during the by-elections campaign. He said such should not be the case during and after polling.
He said: “Violence does not build a nation. A person must be elected because he [or she] is able to bring development and address issues in the constituency.”
On his part, CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana asked political parties to promote peace to ensure free and fair by-elections.
He said violence should be condemned by everyone. He commended MEC for sending a strong warning to those that incite violence.
The calls against violence follow ugly scenes, especially in Karonga Central Constituency where two key partners in the governing Tonse Alliance—Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party—were the major culprits.
The violence in Karonga Central at one point prompted Kachale, a judge of the High Court of Malawi, to threaten to call off the by-election in the area.
Lilongwe North West fell vacant after its legislator Lazarus Chakwera resigned in May this year in compliance with the law to be eligible for the presidential contest. Chakwera won the court-ordered June 23 Fresh Presidential Election. The vacancy in Karonga Central, on the other hand, followed the death of its legislator Cornelius Mwalwanda.
Political analysts have said the by-elections are a stern test for political parties, especially MCP and UTM Party, as they will help them gauge popularity.
Political analyst Ernest Thindwa, who teaches at Chancellor College—a constituenc college of the University of Malawi, said the by-elections have a symbolic image to political parties, but not numerical value as the configuration in Parliament will not experience substantial change.
He said: “The outcome of the polls will have no bearing in terms of the [Tonse] Alliance or parliamentary strength, but its only value is to project popularity. It will tend to suggest a party that is popular.”
On his part, University of Livingstonia analyst George Phiri agreed with Thindwa, stating a win will help add value to the parties.
He said: “If a candidate for a party wins, it adds some value because then you know that this party is popular and will help build support. It is also important for the elections to take place because people in those areas need their representatives in Parliament and councils.”
The violence in Karonga Central, so-called Benghazi due to its violent conduct during elections, left 12 people injured—six each from MCP and UTM Party.
The assault came after MCP second vice-president Harry Mkandawire and UTM Party secretary general Patricia Kaliati tussled over beneficiaries of a revolving loan fund in the area in a bid to win votes.
Karonga Police Station spokesperson Enock Livason has since assured of tight security during the polls today.
There are 93 534 total registered voters in the three areas, including 2 756 new voters.
Karonga Central has 16 180 registered voters, Lilongwe North West 56 575 and Makhuwira South Ward 20 779 voters, according to MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika.
Contesting in Lilongwe North West are Mphatso Boti (MCP), independents Goodwell Ndiwo Banda, Chimwemwe Kameta and Bryson Majoni, Blessings Bokola of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Christopher Njerengo of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD).
In Karonga Central, there are five candidates Leonard Mwalwanda (MCP), Frank Mwenifumbo (UTM Party), Ernest Mwalughali (DPP), Nellie Sichali (MMD) and independent Shackie Mary-Florence Nthakomwa.
Initially, the by-elections were supposed to be conducted in five constituencies and one ward, but MEC deferred the process in Mangochi West, Mangochi North East and Phalombe North constituencies whose vacancies followed court nullification of the May 21 2019 parliamentary elections.
MEC’s decision followed a High Court ruling in a case in which candidates Martin Chikati Sekati Nyengo and Simeon Harrison sued the electoral body on procedure. Kachale said only candidates who contested in the annulled elections would be eligible; hence, the delay as some parties had changed candidates.