Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has assured stakeholders in Lilongwe that the by-elections which have been postponed will be held before 2017 ends.
The by-elections were to be held in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency, Lilongwe City South East Constituency, Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency and Mayani North Ward in Dedza on 6 June 2017.
MEC Commissioner Reverend Clifford Baloyi made the assurance to electoral stakeholders who were concerned with the last minute postponement during what was supposed to be the launch of by-election in Lilongwe Msozi North at Nathenje Teacher Development Centre on Thursday.
“Communication came to us yesterday from the Office of the Secretary to Treasury that government has no money for the by-elections as scheduled … We have been assured that funds for the by-elections will be available in the 2017/2018 budget.
“We will however continue with recruitment and training of Constituency Retaining Officers as we wait for funding. I assure you that the by elections will be held before 2017 ends,” said Baloyi.
MEC Commissioner Bishop Mary Nkosi, who accompanied Baloyi added that government has so far given the commission K187 million out of the required K501 million for the four by-elections.
“As a commission, we have proposed for Protected Budget as one of our electoral reforms. The proposed reform if passed by Parliament will prevent situations where money for elections are diverted to other priority areas as is now a trend.
“We need support for the reform to have the Protected Electoral Budget passed and Gazetted otherwise we will continue to face this challenge. The Office of the Secretary to Treasury will soon issue a press release explaining the issue,” said Nkosi.
Ruth Manda Executive Director for Governance, Gender, Justice and Development Centre which promotes women participation in politics and decision making positions proposed advocacy activities that would ensure that reforms at having a Protected Electoral Budget is adopted.
“By-elections also faced a similar challenge last year. This trend is compromising the image of MEC and its ability to handle elections. I propose an advocacy campaigned aimed at championing the Protected Electoral Budget which is the only sure solution to this undemocratic trend,” said Manda.
Councillor Samson Chaziya of Mazengera Ward who is also District Secretary for the Malawi Congress Party in Lilongwe concurred with Manda and other stakeholders adding that there is need for MEC to improve on the way it handles communication.
“Another area that MEC needs to improve on is the communication. Your communication is very inconsistent as already pointed out by others. During a meeting at Crossroads Hotel three days ago, you assured us that funds for the by elections were ready only to postpone the launch today.
“It was the same thing in the Mchinji by-elections. Do not tell people you have funds if government has not given you funds otherwise you will lose credibility among voters,” said Chaziya. (By Kondwani Chitosi, Lilongwe, April 21, Mana)