Malawi Law Society (MLS) has advised government to provide Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) with funds to conduct by-elections that were slated for June 6 and warned that public officers risk being in contempt of court and violating the Constitution.
MEC announced it has postponed by-elections in Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies, Mayani North Ward in Dedza North constituency and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West constituency following communication from Treasury department that government does not have money.
But the move has been widely condemned that it is infringing on people’s rights.
MLS president Khumbo Soko said MEC cannot be forced to conduct elections without funds but pointed out that the Supreme Court of Malawi ruled that people should vote again in Lilongwe South East Constituency within 60 days.
Soko said if elections are not held within the period as stipulated in the Constitution, then public officers will be violating the supreme law
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said government has given them assurance of availability of funds in the next financial year.
Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo confirmed that funds will be available in July.
He said cash-strapped government is prioritising funds for pressing matters until the next budget.
But commentators argue that people’s right to have representative in Parliament or local council is being infringed upon.
It has also been observed that authorities are not keen to fund the by-elections because the concerned areas are widely regarded strongholds of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has never wanted the seats to be occupied by members of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). When MCP’s Ulemu Msungama demanded a vote recount, the DPP government and MEC developed cold feet.
Later, a warehouse that had the disputed ballot papers was gutted by a mysterious fire. What baffled many was that the first people to arrive at the scene of the fire were senior officials from the government spy agency, the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB).
Investigations into the incident yielded nothing and MEC proceeded to conduct its affairs as if nothing serious had happened. Then the DPP, through its candidate Bentley Namasasu, vehemently challenged Msungama’s court bid, to the point of appealing a High Court ruling that favoured Msungama.
Even after the Supreme Court granted Msungama his wish, MEC came with theories that did not exist in the statutes. It threw so many spanners in efforts to conduct a re-run in the constituency.
Rights activist Rafiq Hajat, executive director for the Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI) said the government is ruling by virtue of the Constitution and if it starts complaining that it has no money for elections, “then it is absolutely ridiculous because it is supposed to rule in favour of the citizens.”
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