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Don’t dismiss deficit concerns on elections

There is no iota of doubt that the stakes are high in the 2019 Tripartite Elections; hence, the mixed reactions to Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Jane Ansah’s disclosure that there is a K7.5 billion deficit on the polls’ self-funded budget.

Some political parties, including the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP), have treated the news of the deficit with contempt, suggesting that this is a ploy by the ruling party to rig the elections.

MCP and PP fear that the budgetary deficit might result in some areas being deprived of necessary voters’ materials come next year.

In this vein, the parties want Mec to come out clearly on the areas that are likely to be affected by the funding bottlenecks.

However, another opposition party, United Democratic Front (UDF), has chosen to see positives in the fact that the government will fund the elections 100 percent without having to dance to the whips of the ever demanding donor agencies.

Being a sovereign country, it a source of pride that Capital Hill will fund the country’s elections fully.

Indeed, it is demeaning having to beg for everything, including funds for running elections, even so considering that the government had all the time to prepare for the elections.

Which is why there is merit in UDF’s thinking. However, pressing the panic button on the consequences of conducting the elections with such a deficit is in no way taking anything away from the government’s commitment to funding the elections.

The parties’ concerns are genuine; hence, they must not be dismissed.

Adequate funding is critical to the success of any election—especially one of next year’s magnitude.

There is so much at stake in these elections any margin of errors is not permissible.

Enough funding is critical to ensuring that the electorates and stakeholders are on the same page in as far as the elections are concerned.

Therefore, Mec and the government should come out clearly on which aspects of the electoral process will be affected by inadequate funding.

Mec should also explain steps it is taking to source funds and, in the event that there is no help in sight, how it will mitigate the effects of the deficit.

Doing this is important so as to avoid any trace of suspicion that can, in the end, undermine the credibility of the elections.

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