‘Women fair badly in Mzimba polls’

The Electoral Commission (EC) has hailed the outcome of the two Mzimba parliamentary by-elections, but bemoaned the negligible women participation and poor showing for civil society.

Meanwhile, University of Malawi associate professor of political science Blessings Chinsinga has said low turnout in any by-election is normal because there is no possibility of voters changing government.

Chinsinga said this in an interview on Wednesday in reaction to Tuesday’s by-election results in Mzimba Central and Mzimba South West constituencies.

EC on Wednesday declared Joseph Kachali as winner of the parliamentary by-election in Mzimba Central Constituency and Raymond Nkhata for Mzimba South West.

Kachali contested as an independent candidate whereas Nkhata represented the ruling People’s Party (PP).

EC chairperson Justice Anastasia Msosa announced in a statement that Kachali polled 9 412 against PP candidate Aaram Beza’s 8 154.

She said Mzimba Central had six candidates. Out of 41 740 registered voters, 20 567 turned out to vote, representing a 49.34 percent turnout.

Former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Owen Mkandawire followed on third place with 2 313 and three other candidates followed by wider margins as low as 18 votes.

Msosa said in Mzimba South West, PP’s Nkhata won the seat with 9 654 ballots, followed by independent candidate James Nthara who polled 4 636.

The constituency had 34 816 registered voters, out of which 18 007 turned out for the exercise, representing a 51.73 percent turnout.

Msosa also bemoaned the dismal presence of civil society in monitoring the electoral process, saying the sector needs to do more especially as the country heads for the 2014 tripartite polls.

Mzimba Central Constituency fell vacant due to the death of Professor Donton Mkandawire and Mzimba South West due to the ascendance of Khumbo Kachali to the office of the Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi.

Msosa said she was particularly concerned about the women participation in the elections.

Said Msosa: “Of the 10 contestants, only one was a lady. What happened to the 50-50 campaign? Political parties and all stakeholders have a responsibility to create a platform where women can be encouraged to contest in elections.”

These were the first by-elections the commission has undertaken since new EC commissioners were appointed in May this year.

Commenting on the official results, Chinsinga said the outcomes are important because they reflect the tone and pace of 2014 general elections. He said the results also enable both DPP and PP to reflect on their future.

Chinsinga said the by-elections were a test of DPP’s popularity as it was their first election after losing power following the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.

“PP ordinarily should have won both seats because of incumbency advantage as a party in government,” he said.

In terms of intra-party democracy, Chinsinga said the results showed that PP is not competent in conducting primaries since the independent who won failed in the primaries.

Parties accept defeat

Meanwhile, political parties and candidates that took part in the by-elections accepted defeat in separate interviews on Wednesday.

DPP regional governor for the North, the Reverend Christopher Ngwira, said his party has accepted the results.

Said Ngwira: “What do you expect in an election where money moved anyhow? Anyway, we have accepted the results and we send our congratulations to the winners.”

Aford’s Dan Msowoya also accepted the results, saying the party’s failure was its own making as it failed to prepare for the by-elections.

“Maybe this is a wake-up call where the party will start preparing for the 2014 elections. We had a strong candidate, but people were saying that we came late,” said Msowoya.

Independents Nthara and Dennis Kandodo Mvula also accepted the results. But Mvula warned that he would bounce back in 2014.

PP secretary general Henry Chibwana was delighted with the results although he wished the party scooped both seats.

When told that it was clear from the beginning that people wanted Kachali because Beza settled in Rumphi, Chibwana said they both went through primaries and it was Beza who won.

Chibwana dismissed the suggestions that the party’s failure in Mzimba Central means that the party is not popular.

“These are two different things. A candidate can be unpopular, but the party can be popular. So, the comparison is wrong,” he said. (With additional reporting by Frank Namangale, Staff Reporter)


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