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Legal Affairs Committee recommends local govt polls in 2019

In a very retrogressive move, the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament has expressed doubt on Malawi’s capacity to hold tripartite elections in 2014 and has suggested that such a plan should be shifted to 2019.

The committee has made the observation in a report on the analysis of a Bill seeking to amend the Constitution to enable the country hold the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections together in 2014.

The report specifically expressed concerns over whether the country will “raise enough resources to carry all the relevant activities related to holding of tripartite elections.”

“The committee observed that if Parliament considers that time may be too short, another option available may be to consider holding the first tripartite elections in 2019 as opposed to 2014,” says the report.

The report was supposed to be discussed in the just ended meeting of Parliament, but has been deferred to the next meeting.

Apart from resources, the committee also raised concerns on the capacity of the Electoral Commission (EC), political parties and other stakeholders.

It also doubts whether it would be possible within the given time to review all the relevant laws that will enable the country to have all the three elections at once.

The committee cites a number of laws such as the Local Government Elections Act and Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act which, it said, have to be reviewed to root out differences that would affect the process.

In the report, the committee also outlines both advantages and disadvantages of tripartite elections.

On disadvantages the committee observes that the complexity of the process can create “logistical nightmare that needs adequate planning and timely resourcing.”

On the advantages of holding all the three elections at the same time, the committee cited reduced costs, the potential to deal with voter apathy, bringing certainty and predictability of the local government polls, enhanced legitimacy of the local elections and also aligning the country with international trends.

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