Malawians should brace for hurdles in the run-up to the 2019 Tripartite Elections if government does not rescind its decision to slash a budget the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) had proposed for 2017/18 operations.
MEC commissioner Linda Kunje sounded the warning in Lilongwe on Wednesday when she presented the 2017/18 budget to the cluster committee of Parliament.
MEC proposed a budget of K16.4 billion. However, Treasury has recommended a 57 percent cut on the proposed budget.
This means the Commission will have to do with a K6.8 billion budget instead of the requested amount.
Kunje warned that MEC will have no choice, but to suspend other activities, though critical to the successful 2019 Tripartite Elections, to operate within the budget ceiling of K6.8 billion.
She cited logistical preparations as one of the areas likely to suffer following the cut.
Kunje said: “Planning for logistics is critical to the success of the elections. Inadequate planning for logistics is likely going to lead to a repeat of the scenario that MEC went through in 2014 by having challenges for deployment of materials and staff in polling centres.”
She said the Commission adopted an electoral cycle approach to elections, which requires a total budget of the general elections of K41.97 billion between 2017 and 2019, with K16.4 billion being a portion of the general elections budget.
“The balance for 2018/19 is K25.57 billion. Out of the K16.4 billion, K15.2 billion was for general elections, K1.2 billion was for by-elections and K700 million for procurement of motor vehicles. However, with the ceilings for general elections and by-elections being K6.8 billion, the shortfall is K8.87 billion, representing 57 percent shortfall of the required amount,” she explained.
Kunje disclosed that the Commission will only be able to partially implement preliminary activities such as voter registration exercise as “it cannot jump any step that is on the approved calendar”.
The Commission, therefore, recommended that government should “respect” the figures it requested in its initial budget proposal.
But some members of Parliament (MPs) expressed misgivings if financial resources are all that the Commission needs to conduct credible elections.
For instance, Nkhata Bay Central MP Ralph Mhone (People’s Party-PP) wondered why the Commission had failed to carry out some of the activities lined up in the previous budget in spite of receiving funding from the Treasury.
Meanwhile, the cluster committee co-chairperson Lingson Belekanyama said the MPs will scrutinise MEC budget and provide its input in due course.n