The official Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) list of candidates for the October 26 by-elections in three constituencies and one local government ward shows independent candidates are dominating the polls.
MEC is scheduled to hold the by-elections in Mzimba East Constituency, Nkhotakota North East Constituency, Dedza Central East Constituency and Chimwalire Ward in Balaka South Constituency.
According to a notice MEC issued yesterday, out of 32 candidates taking part in the by-elections, 13 are independent while eight belong to different political parties in the nine-party Tonse Alliance.
The parties in the Tonse Alliance that have fielded candidates in the by-elections include the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), UTM Party, Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and Freedom Party.
The notice shows that opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has four candidates in all the constituencies, including Chimwalire Ward while the United Democratic Front (UDF) has one candidate in Nkhotakota North East Constituency and Chimwalire Ward, respectively.
On the other hand, the Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (Mafunde) has one candidate in Chimwalire Ward while the Alliance for Development and Democracy (ADD) has one candidate in Nkhotakota North East Constituency.
But the list shows less women representation as only five candidates are contesting in the by-elections. Out of the five women, three are independent candidates and two belong to UTM Party and MCP.
By breakdown, Chimwalire Ward has the highest number of candidates at 10, Nkhotakota North East Constituency has nine candidates followed by Dedza Central East Constituency with seven candidates and Mzimba East Constituency with six.
According to the notice, any alterations that will be made to the list of candidates to take part in the poll may be granted upon the returning officers getting consent from MEC.
Reads the notice in part: “Take notice further that the returning officers, may with the consent of the commission, alter the provisions of this public notice for the purpose of fulfilling requirements of the law and any such alteration shall be published in the same manner as the notice.”
When asked why the party has two candidates contesting, UDF spokesperson Yusuf Mwawa said the party strategised first to determine which constituencies it would have a chance of winning.
He said: “It was a very strategic move in putting candidates. So it was a question of looking at which areas the party would have a chance.”
In a separate interview, Peoples Party (PP) spokesperson Ackson Kalaile said the party decided not to have any candidates as they did not field any candidates in the constituencies and wards in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
“The argument we can put forward is that during the 2019 Tripartite Elections, we did not have any candidates in those constituencies and ward,” he said.
Our efforts to speak to Aford president Enock Chihana proved futile as he could not be reached.
On the other hand, our efforts to seek a reaction from NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) chairperson Barbara Banda on the less women participation proved futile as she did not pick up our calls on numerous attempts.
MEC registered 87 271 voters for the by-elections. Out of the figure, the Central Region registered a high number of voters at 54 855 followed by the Northern Region at 18 833.
The Southern Region registered the least number of voters at 13 583. But the available MEC data on registration figures ahead of the by-elections does not indicate the age differences of voters.
MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale, who is also a High Court Judge, announced on September 15 that the commission will hold the by-elections on October 26 following a vacancy that was created.
The vacancies arose due to the death of incumbent office-bearers this year belonging to MCP, DPP and one independent.
Nkhotakota North East Constituency DPP MP Martha Chanjo Lunji (DPP) died on July 13 2021, Dedza Central East Constituency MP Swithin Mkomba (MCP) died on July 27 2021, Mzimba East Constituency independent MP Wezie Gondwe died on September 1 2021 while Chimwalire Ward councillor Joseph Daniel (DPP) died on August 4 2021.