- Question electoral body’s credibility to hold by-elections
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) officials had a rude awakening in Lilongwe South Constituency when voters questioned the electoral body’s credibility to hold by-elections amid controversy surrounding the handling of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The voters expressed their sentiments when MEC launched the by-elections at Malingunde in Lilongwe and Matenje Ward in Kasungu.
During the launch, people challenged MEC officials to explain why they should trust the commission to hold credible elections when they are being challenged in court over alleged flaws in the electoral process, especially the results management system for the presidential elections.
Developments at the Malingunde function coincided with the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) position as expressed by its executive director Ollen Mwalubunju who asked MEC to consider deferring by-elections in view of the fact that the elections petition case is inconclusive.
Besides Nice, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party also previously asked MEC not to proceed with the by-elections. The institutions have since described as arrogance MEC’s determination to proceed as planned.
MEC went to Lilongwe South Constituency to brief voters on the planned by-elections.
In response to questions on the electoral body’s credibility, MEC commissioner responsible for media Moffat Banda said: “The issue on elections is in court. We all don’t know what will come from there. But we know people have demanded that there should be an election…”
From the look of things, the people seemed to have many questions on MEC, but MCP aspirant Peter Dimba intervened and explained the importance of having the by-election in the constituency as soon as possible. He said further delays would mean denying people in the area representation in the National Assembly.
He said: “We have gone for five months without having representation in Parliament. What this means is that we are not accessing some of the constituency development funds others are getting. Let us understand that the case which is in court is about presidential results and not an MP.”
In an interview on Sunday, Mwalubunju said that despite committing to play a civic education role in the process, Nice still holds the view that MEC should not go ahead with the plan until the electoral dispute is resolved in court.
He said: “As Nice, we will contribute in terms of providing civic education as we did in the tripartite elections. We will engage voters that they should vote for leaders who are development oriented.
“But we would prefer that MEC should defer the elections considering the situation. Wisdom should dictate that these elections should be deferred, considering the political situation.”
In a written response to a questionnaire, MCP publicity secretary Maurice Munthali faulted MEC for proceeding with the plan despite public criticism on the manner commissioners and their leader Jane Ansah managed the May 21 2019 presidential election results.
He said: “The issue here is not about whether MCP will take legal action or not. Rather, it is something to do with moral uprightness and institutional credibility, virtues that are nonexistent in our current Electoral Commission.
“Where one’s moral standing is found wanting and in this particular case we are talking of Jane Ansah and her Electoral Commission, where do they gather the strength to carry out an exercise that hinges on and demands high moral standards and undoubted credibility.”
UTM director of communications Joseph Chidanti Malunga shared similar sentiments, saying that the process is ill-timed, considering the political landscape. However, he said the party will participate in the process.