MEC chairperson says electoral processes must be modern and progressive

By Duncan Mlanjira

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, Justice Chifundo Kachale believes that electoral processes must be modern, progressive and match the developments that have taken place over the years.

He said this on Thursday during the opening of a two-day Electoral Reforms Review Conference organized by National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.

He pointed out that one issue that that wasn’t seen reflected in the conference’s agenda is that of technology.

Delegates to the conference

“How do we cater for technology?” he queried. “There are systems in the world that at the end of the polling day you can have results ready — such technologies are being used in countries like the DRC.”

He added that electoral processes must be seen to be in line with prevailing best practices and he gave an example of areas where there have been advancement of technology.

“The legal framework must move in quickly to legislate for the technological advancement. A pre-emptive example can be given of the recent adoption of biometric voter registration by the Commission.

Biometric kit

“This calls for reform in areas of proof of eligibility, prescribed minimum period of voter registration.

“Embracing technology through reforms in the legal framework is the surest way of introducing efficiencies in the electoral processes.”

He said further to this, the advent of social media platforms and proliferation of radio and television stations should trigger debate as whether we should still insist on prescribing period of campaign as is the case at the moment.

“It is undeniable that elections are significant and central to the constitutional and democratic order. We must always remember that the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi is founded on the indispensable principle that ‘all legal and political authority of the state, derives from the people of Malawi and shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution solely to serve and protect their interest’.”

Current manual voting process

Without entirely pre-empting, Kachale said, the elements of reforms agenda that MEC is championing are being guided by reports of the Law Commission, reports and statements of election observer missions, electoral commission reports, recommendations made by various stakeholders and the directions issued by the Courts.

“In its electoral reform drive, the Commission will be covering almost all areas of the legal framework as follows:

(i) harmonisation and consolidation of electoral laws

(ii) name of the Commission

(iii) independence of the commission covering: financial autonomy, accountability, appointment of commissioners, tenure of office and all areas that are relevant to the independence of the Commission. On appointment of Commissioners, there is need for alignment of professions and expertise when Commissioners are being nominated.

(iv) General provisions relevant to election administration and management

(v) Electoral system

(vi) Campaign financing (this has led to misuse of state resources and needs to be looked into as we reform.

(vii) Campaign, polling, and publication of results

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“The significance of electoral reforms to the consolidation of electoral democracy need no emphasis.

“It is therefore, of paramount importance that elections must at all times be managed with a legal framework that guarantees certainty in all electoral processes.

“This can be achieved through periodic electoral reforms which are implemented to ensure the holding of genuine elections.”

Kachale took cognizance that the remarkable events of the past year transformed the political and constitutional landscape and understanding of democracy in the country and globally.

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“It is a very strong and positive democratic story written by people — but it is also fair to observe that the story has just begun, it does not end there.

“That is why we are here today. Our understanding of democracy is that citizens have to take an active role in democracy, and one such an opportunity is granted to them through voting.

“And in order for the voting to be a credible process, it has to be governed by laws that truly reflect and safeguard the will of the people.

“And in order to attain such a status, the Electoral Commission continues to make strides in the electoral legal reform process,” he said.

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