BLANTYRE–The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has announced the postponement of the long-awaited Local Government Elections to 2014, the elections body said in a statement Tuesday evening.

In a brief statement, the electoral body statement “the decision by government to postpone the elections has been arrived at following consultations with President Bingu wa Mutharika”.

No reasons were given for the postponement of the much-anticipated elections.

This development comes in the wake of cries for the local polls from religious and civil society leaders as well as opposition leaders. Malawians have only gone to the polls for the local polls only once – in 2000 – since the southern African country re-introduced multiparty elections in 1994.

This has left Malawian cities in the queer state of having no mayors or councillors since 2005 to date.

After the 2000 elections the next polls were scheduled to be held in 2005, a year after Mutharika assumed office. But the now 77-year-old economist-turned-politician has not hidden his lack of keenness to hold local polls, challenging his critics:

“Where will I get money to pay the councillors”.

This despite the Constitution stating that local polls must be held a year after the presidential and parliamentary elections. Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) got around that “small matter about the law” by amending the Local Government Act to empower the president to set the date for the holding of the local government elections.

Then Electoral Commission earlier announced that the polls would be held on April 20, 2011, but as the preparations were underway Mutharika suspended the Commission on December 3, 2010 reportedly to pave way for an investigation into the misappropriation of millions of dollars at the electoral body.

The Commission was only re-instated on April 1, 2011, only 19 days to the scheduled polls, when the much-hyped probe found that no such colossal sum of money was missing.

But it was too late for the polls since ground was already lost but, before Tuesday’s dramatic announcement the electoral body was consulting political parties when it would be feasible the elections.

This latest development is set to anger the opposition and civil society leaders. The Malawi Elections Support Network (MESN), a grouping of civil society groups fighting for the polls, has demanded that the polls be held in six months or it will go to court to demand them.

“We’re flouting our own laws each time we don’t hold these polls,” he said.

Analysts say with the absence of city mayors and council, town and district councillors all decisions being made city and district assemblies since 2005, like hiking of city rates or introduction of street parking fees, are illegal because they are supposed to be hatched and voted for by elected councillors.–maravipost

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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