Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) is today expected to release the electoral calendar and launch the 2020 fresh presidential election, amid concerns from political parties over the continued involvement of current commissioners in the electoral process.
Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said the commission will hold a press briefing marking the launch of the poll in Blantyre.
The Constitutional Court ordered the election on February 3 2020 when it nullified May 21 presidential poll results.
“I can confirm to you that the commission will release the electoral calendar for the fresh presidential election on Monday in Blantyre.
We are aware of the directive by the State President regarding
congregations of people and that is why we have limited it to the media,” Mwafulirwa said.
He said Mec will organise a separate meeting for electoral stakeholders such as political parties and civil society organisations to brief them about the electoral calendar.
“We will explain everything to the stakeholders and address questions which they might have,” he said.
Recently, Mec has been in the thick of things, putting its house in order in preparation for the presidential poll.
Earlier this week, Mwafulirwa announced that Mec has started buying some electoral materials as well as hiring temporary electoral staff to be responsible for voter registration.
He said Mec hopes that some people who were engaged in registration for last year’s tripartite elections will also be hired this year to minimise time allocated for training of temporary staff.
However, all this is happening amidst a public outcry to have all commissioners and chairperson, Jane Ansah, fired after being found incompetent to handle the fresh election by the court and Public Appointments of Committee (Pac) of Parliament.
Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party has welcomed the development, saying Mec is observing the court order to release a calendar for the forthcoming election.
However, the party’s spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, refused to comment on the independence of the commissioners considering that they were found incompetent by Pac.
“I cannot talk about the commissioners. You [media] have written a lot of things about them [Mec commissioners] and now you want me to comment on them. No way. That is none of my business,” Dausi said.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson, Maurice Munthali, described Mec’s stand as a sign of arrogance and impunity.
“What Mec is doing is only showing that they are arrogant and these are only signs of high-level impunity. Even if they are waiting for something from the Supreme Court, they must know that they have lost the trust of Malawians such that they cannot continue serving in their positions,” he said.
“Mec is not trusted by Malawians at all. They need to do us a favour by stepping aside to pave the way for new people to serve at Mec.”
UTM publicity secretary, Joseph Chidanti Malunga, said the party is waiting for an official communication from Mec before making its stand known.
MCP and UTM have entered into an electoral alliance with the backing of other parties such as People’s Party, Alliance for Democracy, Umodzi Party, Petra, Mafunde and Freedom Party ahead of the poll whereas DPP has partnered United Democratic Front.
Political analyst at University of Livingstonia, George Phiri, described as unfortunate that the same commissioners who were found incompetent are preparing for the fresh election.
Phiri said it is clear that the majority of electoral stakeholders and Malawians are not willing to have the same commissioners in place.
“The best thing is for the court, political parties and Parliament to produce a statement telling Malawians that they have failed to remove Mec commissioners as recommended by the court and Pac. This is not the kind of governance which Malawi wants. We need to start respecting oversight institutions such as the courts,” he said.
“What the Mec commissioners are doing is that they are not putting the feelings of Malawians at heart. It is bad that they are thinking of themselves and not Malawi as a country.”
Recently, President Peter Mutharika turned down Parliament’s recommendation to fire Ansah and the other commissioners.
The President also refused to assent to the electoral reforms bills which activated the 50 percent-plus-one provision for a presidential candidate to be declared winner, a departure from the simple majority design which was being applied all along.
Mutharika’s refusal to assent to the bills means Mec is preparing for the fresh presidential election using the same laws which were in force during the May 21 2019 tripartite elections.