Fedoma seeks court order against Malawi Electoral Commission on negligence

Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi (Fedoma) has sought High Court Order to compel the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to respect the rights of Persons with Disabilities to fully and freely participate in politics and public life directly or indirectly.

The court order comes following the electoral body’s elusiveness on attempts by Fedoma to hold dialogue over an Action Plan for persons with disabilities in relation to May 20th Tripartite Elections.

Fedoma acting Chairperson, Action Amos disclosed during a press briefing in Blantyre, Mec has called off several meetings as well as attempts to make presentations at the National Consultative Forum meeting to discuss concerns raised by people with disabilities in the country in regards to the forthcoming elections.

“Access to elections either as a candidate or as a voter, is a pre-condition for active citizenship or should not be taken for granted in a democratic society. Nevertheless, despite efforts to dialogue with Malawi Elections Commission (MEC), the authorities therein have remained elusive. There is no Action Plan for persons with disabilities despite awareness created to have such. Several meetings, 6 in particular have been called off by MEC citing that they have other pressing issues to attend to,” lamented Amos.

Fedoma members want their rights
Fedoma members want their rights

Amos said seeking court would be only solution to compel comply with provisions that provide for public participation in public and political life for persons with disabilities as stipulated in Article 29 of the UN Convention.

“The electoral process has generally remained inaccessible and unfriendly to persons with disabilities. Civic education done by MEC remains inaccessible, excluding thousands of citizens with disabilities from their fundamental right to vote i.e. Citizens with Hearing impairments. It is a deliberate discriminatory act to ask persons with disabilities to raise their own funds to civic educate themselves when those that are not disabled are not asked to do the same. We are citizens of this country and contribute and through the Constitution to mandate MEC to make provisions of assisting Malawian citizens to vote in any elections without barriers,” complained Amos.

He added: “Fulfilling of the State’s obligation to abide with international conventions, a court order must be sought to show how MEC, as a statutory body of the state had failed to abide by the principles and provisions of the UNCRPD. This court order which we will sought must lead towards amending of electoral policies, laws and regulations to cater for needs of different persons with disabilities and to conform to principles of the UNCRPD (Article 29) in all future elections”.

He said MEC needed to exhibit a high degree of commitment in terms of a written action plan and adequate budgetary allocations towards issues of accessibility for different categories of persons with disabilities, declaring that MEC has directly discriminated against majority of persons with disabilities contrary to the provision in Disability Act Section 17.

Among other things, MEC, according to Fedoma, should provide tactile or Braille ballot papers templates to guide blind persons who wish to vote and as a public institution are obliged to also carry out sensitization on how to use the template.

Mec is also expected to train its electoral officers and polling assistants on different needs of persons with disabilities during elections with Fedoma vowing to remain voice of Persons with Disabilities and continue with its campaign on the 2014 elections focusing on the inclusion of thousands of persons with disabilities eligible to vote.

Over 200, 000 blind people in the country are expected to be affected by Mec’s failure to address concerns raised by people with disabilities as well as providing tactile or braille ballot papers for testing before actual voting.

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