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‘No by-elections six months before 2019 polls’

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The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), has said it will not hold any by-elections six months before 2019 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.

Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, has said although the law provides that by-elections should take place within sixty days after the occurrence of a vacancy, it has not made provisions on the limitations of the conduct of by-elections before the next general elections.

She said in Zambia, when a vacancy occurs in parliament or council, a by-election is held within 90 days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

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Ansah, however, said in that country by-elections cannot be held six months before a general election.

The Mec Chairperson also cited Zimbabwe where no by-elections are conducted nine months before a general election and Kenya where by-elections are not held later than 12 months to the general elections.

In New Zealand, she said, by-lections are not held six months before a general election.

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“The Commission, having considered comparable jurisdictions and taking into account preparatory activities for 2019 elections, has resolved that no by-elections for councillor or Member of Parliament will be held within six months to the polling date for the tripartite elections,” Ansah said.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Deputy Secretary General, Eisenhower Mkaka, said his party supports the idea.

“This makes economic and logical sense. However, it is just a policy by Mec. There is need to put this in the country’s electoral laws so that it may not be changed,” Mkaka said.

United Democratic Front (UDF) Secretary General, Kandi Padambo, also said his party does not see anything wrong with the arrangement.

“We do not have any objections to that. Mec is mandated to manage elections in this country. If they have made that resolution, I don’t think we should have any objection,” Padambo said.

However, People’s Party (PP) Secretary General, Ibrahim Matola, said such a resolution will deprive people a right to representation.

“Let’s go by the law. This is depriving people of affected wards and constituencies their right to representation. Six months is a long time,” Matola said.

Currently, there are four by-elections Mec is expected to hold. In Lilongwe City South East Constituency it is expected to hold a re-run following a Supreme Court ruling while a by-election will be held in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency, following the death of the constituency’s MP, Highton Jiya early this year.

By-elections will also be held in Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency and Mtsiriza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency.

The elections were initially slated for June 6, but were postponed due lack of funds. The Commission said the elections will be held later in the year but it is yet to announce new dates.

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