By Duncan Mlanjira
Apparently, without consulting Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) itself, the Government had withheld its budget allocation for the demarcation of the country’s political constituencies — thinking MEC was not ready to immediately carry out the process.
This was disclosed by MEC chairperson, Justice Chifundo Kachale at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe on Friday during a caucus MEC had with the Board of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) — which was organised to update pertinent issues related to the forthcoming by-elections and also the demarcation process in view of the judgment by the High Court on 7th October, 2020.
In his speech, Kachale appraised the CMD Board that in his budget presentation in Parliament last month, the Minister of Finance announced that the K500 million meant for the demarcation process has been re-allocated to other votes apparently on the understanding that MEC was not ready to proceed with the exercise this year.
But, according to Kachale, it wasn’t fair to declare that MEC was not ready to proceed with the exercise because “out of the K500 million, K300 million had already been allocated in the current budget which may be beefed up for during the mid-year review if necessary”.
“The initial budget of the Commission for this exercise is K1.3 billion,” Kachale said. “With the K300 million that has been allocated, the Commission will be able to roll out some preliminary activities that can fit within the allocation with the anticipation that either during the mid-term review or during the 2021-22 financial year the remaining amount shall be allocated for the Commission to finish the exercise.
“The Commission also wishes to reiterate that the demarcation exercise will be a very consultative process — all critical stakeholders will be involved.
“Within the planned activities are meetings with presidents of political parties, the CMD Board, the National Election Consultative Forum (NECOF), and Members of Parliament.
“The Commission will also set up demarcation committees at the Council level which will be the main forum driving the process.”
He added that the consultative process in the action plan has been necessitated to assure all stakeholders who were anxious that there might not be a platform for them to or contribute their view.
“What we have resisted as the Commission is the invitation by other stakeholders to pre-emptive about how many constituencies will be created.
“It will be very premature for us as a Commission to say we are undertaking consultations but we already have a solution in our pockets, we don’t think then the consultation will be an honest conversation.
“We will be sharing the plan that we have and the methodology that we are going to use in the demarcation process in the forums that we have indicated with the presidents of the political parties, secretaires generals, the CMD, Members of Parliament.
“We will engage all those before launching the actual process and all issues that the stakeholders may have will be addressed.”