Malawi Electoral Commission’s (MEC) exercise to re-demarcate all the 193 constituencies has been shelved to 2020 after the second tripartite elections in 2019 due to lack of reliable information on population, an official has disclosed.
The Commission had initially planned to conduct a comprehensive demarcation exercise after May 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Among some of the challenges being faced in constituencies whose boundaries are not properly defined is lack of proper coordination, a situation that has left some parts of those constituencies being deprived of resources.
The situation has seen some MP’s serving in two constituencies and some constituencies being left out of development projects.
However, Commissioner Dr. Jean Mathanga told Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament on Thursday in Lilongwe that the exercise has been shifted to 2020 because of lack of reliable information on population of eligible voters that could have been used for the exercise.
“The law in Malawi requires MEC to use population of eligible voters and not registered voters as the case in other countries. The only source for population of eligible voters is the national census and unfortunately the census was conducted in 2008 and the figures that would have been provided are estimates,” explained Mathanga.
Nation Statistics Office (NSO) in Zomba will carry out the next census in 2018.
Mathanga said they made a resolution to shelve plans for comprehensive demarcation exercise to 2020 as the comprehensive demarcation process needed reliable data on population density of eligible voters.
“Only a national census can provide this data. Considering that the national census will be conducted in 2018, the Commission decided to shift the exercise to 2020 in order to utilize most recent data from the census.”
She revealed that in preparation for the 2019 tripartite elections, the Commission conducted a boundary realignment exercise between 13th and 27th March, 2017 covering all the councils.
This exercise was aimed at getting proposals from the councils on areas that need refining or realignment where there were overlaps or unclear boundaries.
“The Commission during this period reviewed, confirmed and received requests for introduction of new registration centres ahead of 2019 tripartite elections to bring elections as close to the people as possible,” she added.
The country’s Constitution Section 76(2)(b) states that any review of constituencies should take place at an intervals of not more than five years, and once MEC has reviewed and determined the constituency boundaries, its recommendations should forwarded to Parliament for confirmation.
Where Parliament may reject MEC’s recommendations, it (Parliament) cannot alter both the number and boundaries of the constituencies.
The exercise to conduct constituency demarcation followed recommendation from the last exercise Mec conducted in 1998 which considered only those constituencies that were very large.
“In the case of constituencies, the overriding criterion is that of ensuring equitable representation as MEC is encouraged to ensure that constituencies contain approximately equal number of voters eligible to register and vote,” said Mathanga.
“Thus, the democratic principle behind review of constituencies (and for that matter ward) boundaries is to ensure that there is some kind of equity in representation across the country. Constituencies should contain approximately equal number of people.”
In doing demarcation the considerations are on, among other things, population density, ease of communication, geographical features and existing administrative areas. For the wards, factors considered include population density, geographical features and ease of communication and the Commission is supposed to ensure that ward boundaries do not cross local authority jurisdictions.
Mathanga has since disclosed that Mec will look into all the requests for centres, confirm, decrease or increase some centres and that they have also reviewed constituencies which belonged to two local councils.
“A report will be compiled on the final resolutions regarding the overlapping boundaries which will be presented to Parliament as required by the law and shared with all stakeholders at appropriate time. In this exercise the Commission did not create any new constituency or ward.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :