The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has quashed suggestions by certain quarters that the Commission open centres at some Army camps to ease mobility of soldiers, their families and the civilians who stay near the military bases.
The proposal was put forward in Lilongwe during the on-going ward demarcation public hearings, which is offering platform to Malawians to air out their views on the newly introduced wards, centres, names and maps before the Commission comes up with a final determination.
Clearing the mist as to why there is no centre at Kamuzu Barracks which also houses the Malawi Army headquarters in Lilongwe and with a big population qualifying to have a centre of its own, Commissioner Reverend Emmanuel Chinkwita-Phiri explained that, just like any security institution, Kamuzu Barracks cannot have a polling centre because it is a protected area.
“Kamuzu Barracks is a protected area, just as it is with any other Barracks, so the Malawi Electoral Commission cannot open a polling centre there,” the Commissioner ruled out.
But as the case has been in the past elections, Malawi Army soldiers have a right to vote since paramount is that they are Malawian citizens, and, they will exercise that right at any other centre where they will register, it has been learnt.
MEC also disclosed that at airports and police stations there will be no polling centres because they are safeguarded areas too resting the matter of having polling centres at any of those areas.
Declared Commissioner Reverend Chinkwita: “ And we can also not open polling centres at Kamuzu International Airport, police stations, Churches and Mosques because those are protected areas too.”
The ward demarcation process was started in 2010 and according to the Electoral Commission Amendment Bill of 2010 each constituency should have two wards except for the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe that should not more than 30 wards, while Mzuzu not more than 15 with the city of Zomba not having more than 10 wards.
Malawi parliament last year passed a Tripartite Elections Bill that allows the country to hold Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections for the first time.
Reverend Chinkwita Phiri thanked everyone for making it to the public hearing saying being a demanding season it is not such an easy thing to pool the people who attended the meeting.
MEC articulates that it is determined to do their best so that the tripartite elections are the best ever and a model to other countries but clarified that in coming up with the new wards the Malawi Electoral Commission considered the provisions of the Constitution on demarcation which place great emphasis on population density.
“The constitution also looked at the ease of communication geographical features, existing administrative areas and wishes of the people,” he said.
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
Malawi last held local polls in the year 2000 whose councillors left office in 2005. This was during the United Democratic Front rule and there were 861 wards while in the new development Malawi will have 444 wards only.
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