Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says inadequate funding and the impending expiry of its commissioners’ term are some of the challenges the electoral body is facing as it prepares for the July 2 fresh presidential election.
MEC chief elections officer (CEO) Sam Alfandika said this yesterday when the electoral body appeared before the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to update it on the commission’s state of preparedness to conduct a fresh presidential election slated for July 2 this year.
The CEO said he has since written President Peter Mutharika to consider hiring new commissioners as the current ones’ tenure expires on June 5 2020 while the chairperson’s tenure expires in October 2020.
Said Alfandika: “This means the members will only have participated in part of the electoral process and then stop along the way. The new ones that would be appointed with effect from 6th June 2020 may have very little time to understand the process to complete the election. So, we wrote the President last week on this issue.”
The request comes barely three weeks after Mutharika refused to fire the commissioners as recommended by Parliament.
Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Kezzie Msukwa has since commended MEC for the move.
“We hope the President acts swiftly as there is not much time before the fresh election,” he said.
On inadequate funding for the election, Alfandika said MEC has a budget deficit of K5 billion from the required K34 billion as Parliament only approved K29 billion.
“On top of that, there is fear that some of the materials to be used like ballot papers might not be purchased in time if the coronavirus scare escalates to June as local printers are shunning to print the ballot papers in fear of reprisals if something happens in the fresh election,” he said.
The MEC CEO said the situation has left them with no choice but to have the ballot papers printed outside Malawi.
MEC also has inadequate numbers of biometric voter registration kits, he said.
In an interview after the meeting, Msukwa said the committee hopes the President will take the issue of commissioners seriously as having commissioners who will just do part of the electoral process will not be good.
He said they summon MEC despite the recommendation from Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament to fire commissioners and some officers at MEC because no one has been fired so far and if the people change, they will transfer notes to the new office-bearers.
During the interrogation which run from 9am to 2.30pm, Legal Affairs Committee members wanted to know why MEC was not being clear on the adoption of the 50 percent+1 in their plans when the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) that heard the presidential election case ruled on the same.
The ConCourt on February 3 2020 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election and directed Parliament to pass the Electoral Reforms Bills to prepare for a fresh election within 150 days of the ruling.
Among other, the ConCourt directed Parliament to provide guidance on the conduct of fresh presidential elections in the event of a run-off.
But Alfandika said as it stands, MEC will use the simple majority rule until the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal interprets the appeal differently.
This did not go down well with the committee members, who accused MEC of defying the ConCourt order and said the 50 percent + 1 still stands.
Dowa East legislator Richard Chimwendo Banda and his Lilongwe City South West counterpart Nancy Tembo asked why MEC was not including the 50 percent +1 issue in their plans, adding the ConCourt ruling still stands. MEC says despite the coronavirus pandemic that has forced many countries to implement a lockdown, they will still go ahead with the election on July 2 to avoid being in contempt of court.