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Parties challenge deregistration proposal

Leaders of some political parties that did not field any candidates in the Tuesday’s by-elections have said it is improper to propose deregistration for parties that do not contest in the national elections including by-elections.

During the declaration of results for Tuesday’s by-elections in Blantyre on Wednesday, Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson, Maxon Mbendera, complained that the number of political parties contesting in by-elections is dwindling.

Only Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Malawi Congress Party and People’s Party (PP) out of over 50 registered political parties contested in the by-elections.

Mbendera questioned the existence of parties that cannot contest in a national election, let alone, the by-elections.

“Do we still need their existence in the political parties register or we should find a formula of deregistering such parties so that we remain with the active ones? There is a debate around this and I hope the scenario here will also contribute to the conclusion of the said discussion,” Mbendera said.

The proposed Political Parties Bill approves deregistration for the party that has not fielded a minimum of twenty five per cent of candidates for parliamentary and local government elections in at least two consecutive general elections.

But leaders of Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (Mafunde), People’s Transformation (Petra), United Independence Party (UIP) and People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) said influencing political parties more than just suggesting deregistration.

Mafunde President, George Nnesa, whose party contested in three wards in August 2015 by-elections, said a political party’s choice not to participate in an election does not harm anyone.

“Just ignore them [non participating parties] because it doesn’t hurt anybody if they are on the list of registered parties but are inactive. Sometimes parties will come and will go but taking an active role is a choice. It doesn’t hurt anybody, why should we bother anyway. Just ignore them,” Nnesa said.

He, however, said deregistration may be permissible for a party that fails to participate in two or more general elections not by-elections.

Nnesa also said preparing for an election is expensive and for the general election the parties know in advance but by-elections are emergencies blaming Mec for ambushing parties on Tuesday’s by-elections.

Petra President, Kamuzu Chibambo, said what is important is not the participation of a political party but having voters to vote.

“If we have a lot of people registering to vote yet we have few people that are coming out to vote, what does that mean? It is not just about political parties but all stakeholders need to see what happens. I think we need to do a bigger introspection. There are basically several reasons that move a party to participate in an election. A party may participate or not due to strategic reasons,” Chibambo said.

PPM Secretary General, Wellington Chatepa, said what Mbendera said is right because it is not good to just have a party that does not participate in any election but some parties lack funding for by-elections.

“Those parties that are in Parliament have an advantage because they get funding from Treasury but for the parties outside Parliament it is not easy to raise funds for emergencies like by-elections,” Chatepa said.

United Independence Party (UIP) President Hellen Singh said Mec should examine itself by getting rid of its inefficiencies.

“We are in a democratic dispensation and you do not deal with such a problem by removing parties from the register of parties. You remove the problems that prompt those parties to stop participating in an election,” Singh said.

Prior to the elections, United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson, Ken Ndanga said its decision to ignore the December 22 by-elections was based on the party’s feeling that participating in an election should be serious business and not a matter of formality.

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