A grouping calling itself ‘Voice of the North’ is demanding that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) must increase the number of constituencies in the northern region from thirty-seven as per its recent demarcation exercise to a minimum of fifty and a maximum of fifty-five.
Chairperson of the pressure group, Davie Botha, said the addition of just four constituencies to the region was an insult to the region, and threatened unspecified actions should MEC not heed to their demands.
“Northerners are expecting to have a minimum total of 50 constituencies and a maximum of 55. People from the north feel politically discriminated and not being considered enough. 37 constituencies are too few,” Botha told the press.
But MEC chairperson, Chifundo Kachale, in a communique on the ongoing nationwide constituency and ward boundary review, said the actual methodology adopted by the commission for determining the specific number of constituencies per council “reflects the legal principles and factors that are outlined by the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions.
“The final decision whether or not the Commission’s recommendations as regards to the review of constituency boundaries will be implemented lies in with Parliament.”
In October, Malawians woke up to the news that the number of constituencies had increased from 193 to 228.
It means that, from the next general election in 2025, Parliament will have 35 more lawmakers.
At the current scale of salaries and allowances for members of Parliament (MPs), the Treasury would need an extra K2.1 billion to cater for annual salaries and allowances for the 35 new MPs alone.
Kachale defended the increase while an analyst said the addition exacts an unnecessary cost on the public purse.
Making the announcement, Kachale said with the new constituencies, the Northern Region now has 37 constituencies while the Central Region has 93, with the Southern Region having 98.
“The commission had to make a final determination on the number of constituencies per council through a deliberative process which considered the following equally relevant factors; geographical features, ease of communication and administrative authorities,” he said.
Late in 2020, salaries and allowances for MPs jumped to over K2.2 million per month per head. The basic salary also moved from K862,400 to K948,640.00.
The increment that took place at that time pushed the MPs’ annual wage bill from K15.4 billion to K20.7 billion.
Based on these figures, calculations show that, if the new MPs were added today, they would drain about K1.26 billion in allowances and K924 million in salaries from government coffers per year.
Kachale said MEC’s priority was to conduct the demarcation exercise so that people were better represented to solidify democracy.
He said economies were affected where there was no vibrant democracy. He cited the situation after the May 2019 elections, which led to a court-sanctioned presidential election in 2020, as a period when people’s economies were disturbed.
But Director at Centre for Research and Consultancy Milward Tobias said the additional number of constituencies would lead to a bloated national budget.
“The cost implication is a bloated budget on governance machinery. I believe that the number is too high for the capacity of our economy to handle. If there are other stages in the process where this recommended number of new constituencies can be discussed before gazetting, let them be followed,” Tobias said.
“I would invite those involved at that stage to reduce or completely abandon the recommendation by MEC. Governance should not be more costly than the very things it is to provide oversight on.
“There is one president for the whole country. It should not be a challenge for a constituency, even with 100 kilometres radius, to have one member of Parliament,” he added.
The rise in the number of constituencies is the result of the demarcation exercise which MEC undertook recently.
The last demarcation exercise took place in 1998 when the number of constituencies increased from 177 to 193.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :