As the February 8 deadline for submission of nomination forms draws closer, major political parties are racing against time to resolve outstanding disputes that emerged during primary elections.
For the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), their destiny in two constituencies lie in the hands of courts after some contestants in the parliamentary primaries took the disputes to court while governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is meeting today to address challenges emanating from the polls.
The constituencies are Lilongwe Msozi South and Dedza East and MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said in an interview yesterday there was nothing the party could do about the matters as courts were involved.
“Courts are independent and we cannot push them, but we are just positive that the courts would bear in mind the urgency of the issues before them, considering the deadline MEC set,” Munthali said.
Apart from these matters in the courts, Munthali claimed the party almost resolved all other disputes regarding the primaries, but said there could be a few other queries to resolve and challenged they would beat the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) calendar.
DPP vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa said a committee appointed to oversee primaries is meeting today; hence, it would be known after the meeting whether there are any constituencies with unresolved disputes.
The party had problems in its stronghold Southern Region, with constituencies such as Mulanje North, Nsanje Lalanje, Thyolo South West, Chiradzulu East and Blantyre City West reporting irregularities.
The DPP is on record to have assured contestants that lodged complaints of re-runs and admitted some of these challenges were as a result of corruption involving presiding officers and imposition of candidates by some party officials.
The UTM Party of Vice-President Saulos Chilima, which also had challenges during the primaries that culminated in violence in the Northern Region, said in an interview yesterday that almost all the queries were addressed.
The party’s deputy publicity secretary Leonard Chimbanga said they have a few areas where they have outstanding issues, but that was being addressed.
“Primaries are emotional, but we are managing the disputes that arose and there is nothing serious that can raise an alarm.
“On Friday, we started handing out certificates and nomination forms across the country,” he said.
The United Democratic Front (UDF), currently in a working relation with the governing DPP, had also its share of problems, but according to the party’s publicity secretary Ken Ndanga, there were at least two constituencies where they have outstanding issues.
He said the party was comfortable they would beat the February 8 MEC deadline.
The former governing People’s Party (PP) of Joyce Banda, which said was contesting in all the 193 constituencies, said they did not have any outstanding disputes to resolve.
University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political scientist Mustafa Hussein cautioned the parties that they do not have the luxury of time considering the MEC deadline.
He also advised the parties with outstanding disputes to come up with fair resolutions as favouring or imposing candidates would force others to stand as independents.
“There are constituencies where some political parties had real chances of winning if the primaries were fairly conducted, but imposition of candidates may cost some political parties those constituencies,” Hussein said.
The political scientist said the party has little to do because justice system cannot be pushed.
MEC set February 4 to 8 as a period for candidates participating in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections to submit their nomination forms.
Candidates contesting on political party tickets were supposed to get their nomination papers through secretary generals (SGs) of their respective parties or any assigned officials while independent candidates for parliamentary and local government elections were supposed to collect the nomination papers from constituency returning officers (CROs), district commissioners (DCs), or chief executive officers of councils.
However, presidential candidates, be it independent or on a party ticket, were required to collect the nomination forms from the chief elections officer at MEC head office.
Submission of the nomination papers for presidential candidates will be direct to MEC at Comesa Hall in Blantyre while parliamentary and local government forms will be submitted to respective CROs.
Meanwhile, MEC has maintained the 193 constituencies and 462 wards for the forthcoming elections.