Malawi candidates free to use first names on ballot -MEC

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has dispelled reports that it has banned use of first, middle and nick names on ballot papers ahead of next year’s tripartite elections in order to give the incumbent President Joyce Banda an edge over her contestants, saying candidates  are free to use names of their choice but such names will be arranged in alphabetical order of their surnames.

The rebuttal comes more than a week after the media reported the news which stirred a heated debate with the opposition parties suspecting foul play.

But in a statement made available to Nyasa Times signed by MEC’s Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga, the electoral body has described the reports as mere fallacy and not fact of the matter.

“MEC would like to clarify that it has neither banned nor proposed to ban use of first names on the ballot papers.  The proposal by MEC is an amendment to Section 76 (b) and Section 43 of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act and Section  (60)(1) of the Local Government Elections Act to reflect that candidates’ names should be arranged in alphabetical order of surnames,” MEC says.

Kalonga: Candidates free ti use forenames

Kalonga: Candidates free ti use forenames

It says candidates will be free to use names of their choice which they would love to be identified with but the names will have to be arranged in order of their surnames so that the system is consistent with the electoral laws as well as international best practices.

“MEC is not coming up with a new thing; this is what has been done in practice in all previous elections. However, there is a loophole in the legislation which is prone to abuse by candidates who may intend to use only first names or nick names so that they should appear on a specific position on the ballot paper and the amendment targets to seal that loophole,” clarifies MEC.

The proposal has taken unawares a number of known 2014 elections’ presidential aspirants such as United Democratic Front’s (UDF) Austin Atupele Muluzi and Arthur Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who have been promoting their first names with the hope of finding themselves at the top of the ballot.

The commission observes that there is a loophole in the legislation which is prone to abuse by candidates who may intend to use only first names or nick names so that they should appear on a specific position on the ballot paper and hence the amendment to seal the loophole.

The electoral body states that in coming up with the proposal it consulted several stakeholders on this issue and the other 16 proposed amendments which have since seen submitted to the Ministry of Justice for amendment during the forthcoming sitting of Parliament which opens this Friday in order to ensure smooth conduct of the 2014 elections.

MEC also says the issue was discussed extensively by a select committee that was formed to look at the electoral laws that needed to be harmonised as the country draws closer to the tripartite elections.

In its proposal, MEC also wants a mandatory period of not less than seven days between the announcement of electoral results and the swearing in ceremony of a person appointed as president, first vice or second vice president.

The body has recommended amendment of Section 83 (3), which provides for a period of swearing in of a person elected to be president or appointed as first vice or second vice president as being within 30 days of being elected or appointed.

During previous polls, Malawi has experienced scenarios where foreign presidents and other delegates have arrived in the country to attend swearing in ceremonies of the elected-president way before vote counting is finished.

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