Over 37,000 people in Mzimba Central Constituency are being denied parliamentary representation following the failure by government to appoint commissioners for the Malawi Electoral Commission.
The Mzimba Central seat fell vacant in December last year following the death of DPP legislator Professor Donton Mkandawire. The Malawi Electoral Commission confirmed with Malawi News that bye-elections in the constituency will not take place since there are no commissioners to administer the elections.
Meanwhile the National Elections Systems Trust (Nest) has called on President Joyce Banda to ensure the speedy activation of the commission in order to accord a chance to the people of the constituency their right to be represented in parliament but also for the preparation of the 2014 polls.
MEC’s Acting Chief Elections Officer Lellie Longwe told this paper that apart from administrative duties the people at the Commission have their hands tied in as far preparing for any elections is concerned.
“In the absence of commissioners, the Commission cannot decide when it will conduct the bye-elections in Mzimba Central. The date for the polls shall only be made known once the Commissioners have been appointed as they are the ones who decide when by-elections could be held.”
Longwe decried the absence of the commissioners as negatively affecting the electoral process in the country.
“At the moment, constituents in Mzimba Central have no representation in the parliament while, on the other hand, the Commission is not able to function effectively in the absence of the commissioners. Some of the decisions on critical issues cannot be made. Similarly, some of the activities cannot be implemented in the absence of commissioners especially the activities which require the involvement of commissioners,” Longwe said.
He, however, maintained that all administrative tasks that MEC is currently involved in are legal.
Among others the Commission has been holding meetings with some stakeholders at their request, capacity building of its members of staff capacity and Multi-party Liaison Committees (MPLC’s).
Other duties have been cleaning of the voter’s register in preparation of the 2014 General Elections,
Nest Programs Manager Unandi Banda said: “People of Mzimba Central constituency have a constitutional right to have a representative in parliament. These are issues of national importance that require collective responsibility that includes the people of the constituency. This scenario has rendered the people of Mzimba Central a non-participatory status on national platform”.
Banda blamed the former ruling DPP for what he termed as having a different understanding of democracy.
“It is this understanding that made them to be at war with almost every institution that had a different understanding of democracy. The State President needs to consult the political parties as required by the laws of Malawi that deal with elections.
“These consultations should be real for the sake of the integrity of the new commission that would be appointed. Consultation needs to be conducted as soon as possible because time is very important as the process has already taken long,” Banda added.
The law demands the president should consult stakeholders like political parties represented in parliament through submissions names.
According to Nest, the procedure enables political parties to participate in the choosing process itself which helps build confidence in their own Commission. The President has to start the process of appointing a new commission soon after the burial ceremony of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, he said.
“If procedures as laid down in our electoral laws can be followed with urgency and the commissioners appointed we can regain the lost time,” added Banda.