Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says it will hold a voter registration exercise for by-elections in Lilongwe South Constituency to give opportunity to eligible constituents to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in a written response yesterday that they plan to hold by-elections in the constituency whose parliamentary candidate Agnes Penemulungu died in April.
He said: “There will also be voter registration for people eligible to vote in the constituency that did not register before. But transfers of voters will not be allowed… MEC is willing to hold the by-elections as soon as the situation improves and we are really monitoring the environment.”
According to Mwafulirwa, the by-elections will be conducted at a date to be announced as the electoral body is waiting for the political tension in the country to subside.
He said the electoral body will also give chance to new candidates to contest for Lilongwe South seat, adding those who already presented nomination papers successfully will only be required to submit letters expressing interest to contest.
“However, those that already registered will not need to register again but they will be required to verify their names in the voters register,” said Mwafulirwa.
According to Section 31(b) of Malawi Electoral Laws, any by-election to fill the vacancy that occurs shall be held within 60 days after the seat of a member becomes vacant.
But following the post-elections demonstrations led Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) against MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, the electoral body has failed to conduct the by-election.
HRDC wants Ansah to resign for allegedly presiding over a fraudulent May 21 Tripartite Elections.
The accusation raises a question on whether the by-election the electoral body will hold will be accepted by the electorate.
University of Livingstonia political science lecturer George Phiri in an interview expressed doubt that results of a by-election presided over by the current MEC would look credible among those who doubt the MEC chairperson’s objectivity.
He said: “People will still allow MEC to hold the by-election because that is a constitutional issue. But the problem is that even if MEC may choose to be objective, its credibility will still be questionable because of the mismanagement of the previous results. They still have that duty to create trust.”
According to Mwafulirwa, the commission planned to hold by-elections in July but they halted the process because the situation was not conducive for its officials.
During the last voter registration, 28 706 people in Lilongwe South Constituency registered to cast the ballot on May 21. Out of the figure 15 499 are females while 11 306 are males.