Some voters will have to wait longer to elect councillors and legislators as the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is grappling with funding woes.
The Republican Constitution obliges the electoral management body to hold by-elections within 60 days from May 20, when Malawians went to polls to elect a president, members of Parliament and ward councillors.
When asked about the uncertainty in areas where polls were postponed from May this year, chief elections officer Willie Kalonga said it was not possible for the electoral body to fill the vacancies in two constituencies and six wards within the legally stipulated durations due to delays in funding.
“The law really requires MEC to hold by-elections within 60 days but that is not feasible without funding. You may wish to know that Parliament has just passed a [provisional] budget and we cannot announce the exact dates for the by-elections until we meet our colleagues at the Treasury,” said Kalonga.
The previous financial year span from July 1 2013 to June 30, persuading the just-ended sitting of Parliament to pass a resolution requiring government to spend K210 billion as the nation awaits a full-scale budget in the next four months.
The sticky financial situation affects the conduct of six wards, including Kandeu in Ntcheu North East, Lisanjala in Machinga Likwenu, Zgeba in Karonga Nyungwe and Lifupa in Kasungu Central where the local government polls were cancelled following the death of some of the nominated candidates. Equally hit are Mchesi in Lilongwe and Mbalachanda in Mzimba where the election was cancelled on the polling day having received ballot papers that were erroneously swapped at the point of dispatch.
On the parliamentary front, MEC is supposed to hold by-elections in Blantyre following the suspension of polls due to the death of candidate Harold Chester Katsonga in May and Thyolo East which was won by President Peter Mutharika. The Constitution outlaws one from holding a parliamentary and presidential position simultaneously.
Kalonga assured Malawians that the by-laws in the flashpoints will be held by the end of this year, but could not disclose the exact date for the exercise.
Dilemma typifies a gap in national budgeting that plagues the country in nearly all electoral year and United Democratic Front (UDF) leader of the house Lucius Banda told MBC last week there is need to rethink the fiscal calendar by “shifting the polling dates or rescheduling the budget timelines”.