By Sylvester Kumwenda:
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, has commended The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for the progress it has registered in its exercise of reviewing constituency and ward boundaries.
Chakwera who is Malawi Congress Party (MCP party was speaking Thursday at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe during an interface meeting between with MEC and MCP leadership on the ongoing exercise.
He said Malawians have trust in MEC to come up with justifiable results, but he urged MEC to conduct the exercise with diligence so as the results truly reflect the aspirations of the country.
“We know there are formulas that are involved in this exercise, but it is up to you to run them in a manner that will ensure this reflects to the development agenda of this country and respect everyone’s dignity.
“However I would like to commend MEC for the stakeholder consultations that have been taking place in trying to deal with the imbalances that might be there, in order to make sure our democracy is consolidated,” said Chakwera.
According to law, constituency boundaries are expected be reviewed at intervals of five years, but was last undertaken in 1998. The duty, tasked to MEC; takes into consideration three factors which are Population density, ease of communication geographical features and existing administrative boundaries.
From this exercise, it is expected that the number of constituencies will rise from 193 to 228.
Director of Elections in MCP Dr. Elias Chakwera urged MEC to critically look into population and land size as guiding factors for the demarcation exercise.
MEC Chairperson Dr. Chifundo Kachale urged all stakeholders to bring forward a detailed technical analysis for consideration.
“In our presentation, we were providing the methodology we adopted in arriving at those numbers from council to council, to decide the number of constituencies per council.
“If there are any issues, we would appreciate to be provided with specific instead of general observations so that the commission can look at them and address them,” said Kachale.
He however said they do not expect any inquiry or concern will to affect or delay the process.
By February next year, the commission is expected to come up with initial tentative maps from initial engagements, which will be provided to stakeholders for criticisms and observations. The final report is expected by end October 2022.
He also disputed concerns that the commission is favoring other regions in the process saying everyone is entitled to their opinions.
“As the president of MCP who is also the leader of this country observed, political perceptions in this kind of process are inevitable. Our responsibility is to ensure that any valid and legitimate concerns which are within our control are responded to and are addressed.
“And just by our composition, we come from different parts of the country, different (political) parties and chaired by the Judge of the High Court. When we met as a commission to decide on this, we did not have anybody telling us how any seats to give to which region. We went by our formulas and those are the outcomes that have surfaced,” he said.
Kachale dismissed concerns that the exercise is costly as taxpayers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay the extra public officers, saying if MEC had not been cautious, the number of constituencies could have been way beyond the roof as some quarters had suggested.
However he said money should not be a reason as to why as MEC we should fail to do its job as the legal factors of the exercise do not allude to economic considerations.
“But we are a responsible institution and we are aware that everything we do has economic implications, you have to balance those economic interests with the issue of having a workable democracy where every voter feels that their vote counts ,” said Kachale.