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Mec ponders reduction of constituencies

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has said it is digesting calls from various stakeholders in the electoral system to decrease the number of constituencies following the revamping of Local Government structures mandated to implement various development programmes in their respective districts.

The country’s statutes give Mec the mandate to redemarcate constituencies or wards once every five years.

But since 1999, the electoral body has not redemarcated the constituencies.

“Understandably yes, there have been calls for a decrease in the number of constituencies; people have argued that with the working of the Local Government system, Malawi does not need 193 constituencies,” Mec Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga said in an interview yesterday.

He added: “Following various consultations, the Commission will come up with a position.”

The remarks come at a time Treasury allocated K300 million to the Commission for the redemarcation exercise scheduled for October this year, courtesy of technical expertise from the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, Kalonga said the Commission is discussing possibilities of increasing the number of women in the National Assembly following their poor representation in the House.

“We are trying to find ways in which the representation of women could go up maybe through the demarcation or otherwise. Should there be a specific quota for example [for] women or should we introduce a fourth ballot?… and at the end of the day, Malawi will adopt a system which will ensure that more women are being represented in the National Assembly,” said Kalonga.

He also said the proposals will have to go through the National Assembly before 2017 as the country by then will be preparing for the 2019 Tripartite Elections.

“If we say we are going to introduce a fourth ballot, in other words, every council should have a woman voted for, [and] if we are to adopt that in every council there will be seat for a woman, meaning that when you go to vote, you will be voting for a councillor, Member of Parliament, president and the fourth ballot [will be] for a woman.

“If this is going to be implemented, it has to go through Parliament and, actually, the Constitution needs to be amended to provide for that,” Kalonga said, adding that if the system works, the woman will not be attached to any constituency but to a district.

The fourth ballot that will only be contested for by women, Kalonga said, will guarantee that at least 35 women MPs from the 35 councils in the country, in addition to those elected through the normal way, will be in the august House.

Currently, the country has 43 female legislators out of 193 seats and three of them are cabinet Ministers.

Though reluctant to comment on the issue, NGO Gender Coordination Network Chairperson Emma Kalia said the grouping was anxiously waiting to see the proposals approved.

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