The Malawi Electoral Commission has engaged an extra gear in its preparations for the much awaited tripartite elections scheduled for May next year, by engrossing the general public in proposed ward demarcations before coming up with final maps.
“The Commission is urging all interested parties to visit viewing places to record their observations on new maps.
“The Commission will hold public hearings starting where members of the general public will have an opportunity to present their observations to the Commission,” Malawi Electoral Commission Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga has disclosed.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has since released a time table for 25 districts, having already sampled the public discussions in three districts of Kasungu in the country’s central region, Nsanje in the south and Rumphi in the northern Malawi, in December last year.
“After holding public hearings on ward demarcations in Kasungu, Nsanje and Rumphi, the Malawi Electoral Commission is continuing with the programme to the rest of remaining districts, cities and municipalities,” the chief elections officer explained.
The MEC chief elections officer further disclosed that maps for the proposed wards were made available for public viewing in civic, municipality and district commissioners’ offices, as well as the headquarters of all traditional authorities up to January 12.
According to the Malawi Electoral Commission, the ward demarcation process was conducted in 2010.
The Electoral Commission Amendment Bill of 2010 sought to stipulate the number of wards the Commission may determine for the purpose of Local Government Elections.
The amendment says that each constituency should have two wards except for the commercial city of Blantyre and capital Lilongwe which can have not more than 30 wards, while the northern region’s city of Mzuzu should have a slot of not more than 15 with the country’s old capital of Zomba cannot exceed 10 wards.
With the new development, Malawi will have 444 wards less with 417 wards that were there before.
The Commission has warned that after the dates set for the public hearings, it shall not entertain any views on the ward demarcations.
“The Commission wish to emphasize that it shall not accommodate any contrary views after the public hearings,” warns the chief elections officer.
And the electoral commission’s director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa has clarified that MEC will manage the public hearings exercise in the 14 set days because there are three working groups.
“This is a nationwide exercise and the Malawi Electoral Commission has set up three teams covering three districts in a day,” Mwafulirwa said.
But the Commission will maintain the 193 constituencies the country has had since 2004, citing time and logistical demands as deterrents.
MEC announced that the constituency demarcation could be done in 2015 as stipulated in the Commission’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan.
During the last parliamentary sitting, members of parliament in Malawi passed a Tripartite Elections Bill that allows the country to hold Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.
But the August House is yet to amend other electoral laws in the Local Government Elections Act so that they are harmonized with the Presidential and the Parliamentary Elections Act.
Some of the targeted laws are to do with dates for conducting the local government elections, the tenure of office for councilors, a qualified voter, campaigning, observers, offences and penalties.
Mwafulirwa has also disclosed that the meetings offer a chance for the general to come up with names of the wards and allocation of registration centers, among others.
The Commission’s director of media and public relations has urging people to show up for the public hearings, saying the success of elections is not measured by what happens on the polling day.
“The success of the 2014 tripartite elections and indeed any other elections will not be measured or be determined by what happens on the polling day but it will be a culmination of all steps taken and public hearings are part of that so stakeholders should them seriously,” said the Commission’s media boss.
The country will hold the tripartite elections for the first time in Malawi history. Presidential and parliamentary elections were last held in 2004 whereas local government elections were last held in 2000 during the reign of the United Democratic Front.
To run the tripartite elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission estimates that it will require K 14.2 billion.
The Malawi Electoral Commission’s mission is to conduct free fair, credible and cost effective elections on a regular basis as required by the Constitution.
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