Treasury has asked the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to postpone to the next financial year by-elections in five wards because the electoral body has exhausted its funding for the 2014/15 financial year.
The development has prompted the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) to accuse the Ministry of Finance of attempting to determine when elections can be held in the country.
“This is tantamount to usurping the powers of the commission. Mesn thinks the independence of the commission can be guarded if a protected funding scheme is set up. MEC should not be going to the Ministry of Finance to beg for money that has already been appropriated by Parliament,” reads in part a statement from Mesn.
But Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya denied the allegations and said MEC had exhausted its funding as approved during the 2014/15 Mid-Term Budget in February this year.
He said funding for the by-elections would be considered in the 2015/16 National Budget due on July 1.
Said Msowoya: “We take note of the concerns of the electoral stakeholders, but there is nothing we can do at the moment.
“The funding allocated to MEC has run out, so we will consider them for the next financial year. Whatever preparations they have started should be put on hold to avoid incurring further arrears as it happened in the last financial year.”
MEC has been plagued with claims of arrears owed to monitors and other electoral workers who have only been paid now since elections were held in May, 2014.
But Mesn believes the economy has not been impaired to the extent that the Ministry of Finance cannot allocate K403 million emergency funding for five wards.
MEC has postponed by-elections launch meetings scheduled for April 29 and has failed to conducted recruitment of polling staff ahead of the June 23 by-elections.
MEC was expected to carry out voter registration and voter verification exercise from May 8 to 12, but this has also been postponed.
In a statement released on Friday, MEC explained that the decision was made because of the government’s delay to release funding for the by-elections.
But MEC is yet to postpone the by-election in the five wards in Luchenza Municipal Council, Zomba Central in Zomba City Council, Msikisi in Mangochi Town Council, Chibanja in Mzuzu City Council and Khwawa in Karonga District Council.
Zomba Central became vacant after the death of the mayor, Joanna Ntaja, earlier this year.