A renowned Malawi governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali has warned that government has no excuse not to fund K8.7 billion election budget deficit, arguing that matters of elections must be a priority to any State.
During a media briefing held on 13th June 2020 in Lilongwe the newly sworn-in Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Dr Chifundo Kachale said there was a deficit of K8.7 billion on the elections budgetfrom a total of K 38.8 billion budget amongst other key challenges- others being delayed disbursement of funds- so far registered by the Commission.
However, in a separate interview with Nyasa Times, Munthali said that government had no excuse not to fully fund the budget for the election arguing that just like Covid-19 fresh elections should be amongst the top priorities of government, and any attempt to frustrate the conducting of the elections under the guise of funds being allocated to Covid-19 could not be received well by the public.
“Already we have seen the Treasury releasing funds for trivial-political activities for President and Cabinet Ministers. To me it’s just a question of priorities. Elections touch on legitimacy issues and matters of legitimacy are key and priority in as far as a functioning democracy is concerned. Our Constitution clearly underscores this in Section 6 and 12. They are Constitutional matters. In that regard government has a primary responsibility to fund elections, and other development partners can only come in to complement government efforts”, argued Munthali
According to the Lilongwe based governance expert, there was need for the country to start looking at a long term strategy towards domestically financing elections in Malawi by enacting electoral reforms relating to the same.
“It’s high time government tabled that electoral reform Bill – as proposed by the Special Law Commission to electoral reforms in 2017- in Parliament to allow the establishment for a special elections fund that government would use to strictly save funds for future elections on annual basis. Elections in this regard would truly be viewed as a process rather than an event,” said Munthali
In response to the question of the various development partners silence on their intervention (both technical and financial) in the forthcoming elections, Munthali said it was unfortunate that donors had decided to play the role of mere spectators despite the fact that these fresh elections were historical and required collective response by all stakeholders.
“Certainly, some donors may have deliberately decided to stay away from the fresh elections due to the public criticism they received on their perceived biasand skewed role in 2019 Tripartite elections.
“ However, their sudden pulling out of their support to this fresh elections may be in the short or long term be interpreted negatively with some holding that perhaps the donors are not happy that the electoral justice delivered at Court did not favour the incumbent. While the primary responsibility to finance elections rest with the government, the timing for donors to pull out is wrong and may simply give credence to some existing conspiracy theories that they have been against the quest for electoral justice.
“Otherwise, the fresh elections provide a good litmus test for donors if they indeed believe in the values of good governance and respect of rule of law and electoral justice,” said Munthali.