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Constituencies swell to 228

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By Deogratias Mmana:

The number of constituencies has increased from 193 to 228, Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has announced.

This means that, from the next general election in 2025, Parliament will have 35 more lawmakers.

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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.

But Mec Chairperson Chifundo Kachale has defended the increase while an analyst says the addition exacts an unnecessary cost on the public purse.

Making the announcement Thursday, 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.

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“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, our 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.

Asked about the economic implications of the additional constituencies, 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.

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