The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has postponed by-elections for two Lilongwe constituencies and two council wards saying government has no money for such activity.
Mec promised people of Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies as well as Mayani North Ward in Dedza and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe that it would conduct the by-elections in their areas on June 6 this year.
But addressing Lilongwe City South East Constituents during what was meant to be an election launch yesterday, Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah said the funds that the electoral body has received will only be enough for officers’ training and some civic education and not the actual vote.
Ansah said the electoral body needs over K400 million for the whole exercise but has about K100 million.
She said government has told Mec that it will not be able to fund an election until after the approval of the 2017/2018 budget in June.
“We will continue discussing with government to ensure that there are no much delays. And as we discuss, we ask you to be peaceful. We aim at conducting this election as soon as possible but you just have to understand that we cannot conduct an election in time without funds,” Ansah said.
She said Mec is aware of the provision which stipulates that by-election needs to be conducted within two months from the time of vacancy in an area but the same law also provides for more time in case of any challenges.
At first she did not indicate the probable date for the by-elections but after the inquisitive constituents pressed the electoral body, Ansah said looking at the government funding system, chances are that they may be there in August.
Some Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) district and constituency leaders who were available said they suspect political twisting and they are not happy with the u-turn as the constituents are currently feeling the pinch of the absence of Member of Parliament.
The only aspiring candidate who was available at the event, Ulemu Msungama of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) said Mec is an established institution to be too indecisive.
“It was the same Mec that came to us with the 6 of June date and not us. They even told us at Kaliyeka that they have funds and for them to come and tell us that they have no money, is surprising and uncalled for,” Msungama said.
Special Law Commission on Electoral Reforms recommended the adoption of the proposed legislation on elections management fund to provide for, among others, the establishment of the fund.
The commission said the existence of the fund would ensure that the electoral commission has funds reserved for the purposes of elections readily available on request.
“The fact that the electoral commission relies on government for its recurrent transactions and the financing of the electoral budget means that the electoral commission faces the same challenges as faced by all institutions and structures that rely on government subventions. Such problems include competition from other institutions and sectors for the available limited resources,” the commission said.
Ansah also said Mec is yet to receive March 2017 recurrent expenditure funds.
Lilongwe City South East Constituency fell vacant after its representative Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Bentley Namasasu was removed by a Supreme Court order, following Msungama’s successful litigation.
When Msungama pressed for a vote recount, mysterious fire gutted a Mec warehouse where the disputed ballot papers were stored.
The DPP’s Namasasu appealed against a High Court ruling which went Msungama’s way.