Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has advised political parties in the country to use its guidelines when scrutinising candidates during primary elections to identify their representatives in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The electoral body has since warned that in the event of a political party’s candidates being disqualified it would not be possible to replace them.
The MEC statement has come at a time the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is conducting primary elections while the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), United Democratic Front (UDF), People’s Party (PP) and newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) are yet to identify their candidates.
To date, MCP primary elections have predominantly been marred by discord, cancellations and violence.
In a letter addressed to party secretaries general signed by chief elections officer Sam Alfandika, MEC said while it has no control on how the political parties are conducting their primary elections, registered political parties should ensure that nomination procedures are adhered to.
MEC has also advised political parties to conduct the primary elections in a free and transparent manner, urging that the results should reflect the will of the people. It said if primary elections are mishandled they could result in voter alienation and people shunning electoral activities.
Reads the statement: “The commission further wishes to emphasise that there will be no nomination by substitution. If a nominated candidate is disqualified because of shortfalls regarding the eligibility criteria, there shall be no opportunity for a political party to find a replacement.”
On eligibility, MEC advised political parties: “There should be proper background check of the candidates to ensure that they meet the eligibility criteria and that they possess none of the deficiencies that may result in their disqualification.
“Please note that it will be difficult for political parties to identify replacements during nomination as time would have run out.”
According to MEC guidelines, candidates for all types of elections—presidential, member of Parliament or councillor—should have a nomination paper completed and executed in the prescribed form and provide evidence or a statutory declaration by the candidate made before the magistrate or a commissioner for oaths.
MEC guidelines also ask political parties to ensure that candidates are able to speak and to read in English well enough to take an active part in the proceedings of the National Assembly or Council Chamber and that there is evidence that he or she is a registered voter in any constituency or ward.
MEC said candidates will be dismissed if they owe allegiance to a foreign country, adjudged or declared to be of unsound mind and convicted in the last seven years of a crime or dishonesty or moral turpitude.
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said the party has developed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with aspirants seeking to represent the party and that in the MoU there is a code of conduct that details the eligibility of a candidate.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi in a telephone interview said DPP was aware of the need to scrutinise the candidates to conform to the MEC’s requirements.
However, UTM interim spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said they will wait for official communication.
The commission has designated February 4 to 8 2019 as days when candidates will present nomination papers for the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections. n