Contesting parties have expressed mixed reactions on the significance of by-elections in parts of Zomba, Lilongwe and Mchinji today to choose a member of Parliament (MP) and two ward councillors.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is conducting by-elections in Zomba Chisi Constituency for an MP and Ngala Ward in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency as well as Mtope Ward in Mchinji West Constituency for councillors.
However, the battle is mainly between the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which are fielding candidates in all the three areas. People’s Party (PP), the third largest party in terms of representation in Parliament, has only fielded a candidate in Zomba Chisi.
In total, six candidates will battle in Zomba Chisi while Ngala and Mtope wards will host two-horse races between DPP and MCP candidates.
MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said in an interview yesterday the by-elections were crucial as they would give people in the three areas a chance to choose leaders and a party that would be the solution to challenges facing the country.
She said: “Similarly, the by-elections are crucial as they illustrate maturity in our democracy and show that our democratic system is able to reboot and give people a chance to say through the ballot who they want to represent them.”
Kabwila said her party was looking forward to a free and fair by-election that gives “credible results”.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila agreed with Kabwila on the importance of the by-elections, saying they form the foundation for the country’s democracy.
He said DPP takes the by-elections seriously, hence its fielding candidates in all the three areas.
But PP publicity secretary Kenneth Msonda dismissed the idea of holding the by-elections, describing it as a waste of time and resources.
He said: “It has no significance because we are going to the by-elections when the electoral reforms we have been talking about have not been implemented. We needed to address the issue of electoral reforms first, remove the outdated electoral laws which everybody already condemned then conduct the polls.”
Commenting on the reduced number of political parties participating in the by-elections, political scientist Joseph Chunga observed that generally when it comes to by-elections the party in power has an upper hand due to a number of factors, a development that puts off opposition parties to field candidates.
On UDF which has not fielded any candidate, Chunga attributed the move to its working relationship with the DPP.
MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said all was set for the polls and expected polling staff to perform effectively to avert the challenges faced during previous elections.
MEC has engaged 381 temporary staff to help run the polls at 37 polling centres where the elections will be administered. n