Malawi fails to meet as per law the Constituency and Ward boundary review for 13 years

The last undertaking of the review of Constituency and Ward boundary exercise that determined the current 193 seats in Parliament was carried out 13 years ago in 1998 — failing to meet the country’s Constitution requirement of after every five years.

The last review that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) undertook to meet the Constitutional requirement was in 2008, 10 years after the 1998 exercise but, according to the pollster, it was not approved by Parliament as per requirement.

MEC is currently in the process of meeting the Constitutional requirement to be ready for the 2025 tripartite elections that will take into consideration eligible voters that would turn 18 on the day of the elections.

Commissioner Fabiano (2nd left) making his opening remarks

This was disclosed on Friday in Blantyre at a media workshop as part of the stakeholder interactive sensitization process which MEC also undertook with other partners such as political parties, NGOs, district councils, traditional and faith leaders, National Statistical Office (NSO) among others.

In his presentation on the 2021 review’s legal framework, MEC’s legal counsel, David Matumika Banda said the exercise is very important that after every five years the pollster should make sure that all constituencies are equal in the numbers of voters by accommodating the eligible ones that would turn 18 on the day of the next elections.

He said currently the consultation exercise is being done with District Councils, who are working on population data provided by the NSO and once the whole process is through — set for next year — the new constituency and ward boundaries shall be presented to Parliament for its debate and approval.

But Parliament “shall not alter the boundaries of any constituency, except upon the recommendation of the Electoral Commission” from matters to arise from the Parliamentary debate on the review report.

He added that if Parliament would reject the boundary review, MEC has no more powers to go ahead with it but to use the current constituency and ward boundaries for the next elections.

In the case that Parliament rejects a constituency and ward demarcation review, any interested stakeholders from the general public, that include civil society organisation (CSOs) and MPs, can demand for its reconsideration through MPs as a private member Bill.

Matumika Banda also said once the reviewed boundaries shall be approved, MEC shall not apply them should a vacancy arise that needs a by-election before 2025 tripartite elections.

In his remarks, MEC’s chairperson of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation committee, Commissioner Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano took cognizance of the “important role the media plays in reaching out to the masses in the dissemination of correct electoral information.

He said this boundary and ward review process brings with it some technical and political sensitivity and it is the media that needs to stand tall and report in a fair, balanced and non-political stance.

“That is why we have brought you, the media, so that we move together in this process and in all other activities so that the electorate are well and accurately informed.

“There are always sensitive issues that come out in all electoral processes — that is why we always rely on you because on our own we cannot successfully reach out to the masses,” he said.

Also present was Pavel Cabacenco, Country Director for International Foundation of Electoral System (IFES), which supports citizens’ rights to participate in free and fair elections that funded the media interface workshop.

He also concurred with Commissioner Fabiano, saying the media has direct impact on the citizenry’s voting pattern — positively or negatively — thus IFES’s direct involvement in helping MEC to work together with the media for the good of the nation.

In the case of cities Blantyre and Lilongwe, the total number of wards shall not exceed 16; Mzuzu City at 15; Zomba City; Mangochi Town Council and Kasungu Municipality at 10 each.

MEC is empowered by the Constitution and the laws to demarcate boundaries of constituencies and wards in a neutral, objective and non-partisan approach; that data collected from the field is well processed and stored and all necessary consultations are made with stakeholders.

The electoral stakeholders include NSO, Department of Surveys, political parties, Parliament, the media, local government authorities and the general public.

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