Malawi Electoral Commission pleased with public hearings turnout

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) wrapped up its countrywide public hearing exercise on ward demarcations last week satisfied with the turn out and participation of the stakeholders.

The electoral body embarked on the exercise on December 19 last year to solicit views from the public and stakeholders on the ward boundaries that were produced following the Electoral Commission Amendment Act of 2010.

Under the Act, each constituency must not have more than two wards except for Blantyre and Lilongwe cities which can have not more than 30 wards, Mzuzu City up to 15 while Zomba City cannot go beyond 10 wards.

Speaking to Nyasa Times, MEC Director of Media and Public Relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the exercise was successful and helped the commission to resolve some issues which could have created problems during the elections.

Mwafulirwa: All went well
Mwafulirwa: All went well

“The public hearings have been a successful exercise and the Commission is fully satisfied with the turnout and participation of all stakeholders.

“The exercise has also given the Commission an opportunity to get feedback on the maps that have been produced which has helped rectify some issues which could have caused challenges during elections,” Mwafulirwa told Nyasa Times.

He said the good participation of the stakeholders during the meetings showed that people were not just after hearing what MEC had for them but also to give their opinions on the new boundaries.

He disclosed that Commissioners would meet before the end of the first quarter of 2013 to review all the issues and complaints that were raised during the meetings before coming up with the outcome which shall be made public.

However, the spokesperson observed that during some meetings people raised concerns which were beyond MEC authority such as demanding more wards per constituency.

“They felt their wards were too big to be serviced by one councilor. But with the current law stipulating that each constituency should have not more than two wards, the Commission cannot create a third ward within a constituency no matter how convincing the request might be,” he asserted.

The exercise covered all the districts and cities in the country except Kasungu and Luchenza municipalities and Mangochi Town.

The hearings in these councils were postponed to give room for consultations that may lead to a review of the law that prescribes the number of wards the Commission may determine for the purpose of local government elections.

The Commission also did not conduct public hearing in Likoma Island due to what Mwafulirwa described as “logistical reasons.”

The first public hearing was held in Kasungu district on December 19, 2012 followed by two others in Rumphi and Nsanje on December 21, 2012.

After Christmas break, the hearings resumed on January 14, 2013 and finished on February 4, 2013 covering all the remaining areas.

For the first time in Malawi’s political history, the country is expected to hold tripartite elections- where the president and vice, members of parliament and councilors will be elected in one day.

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