Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is seeking input on the review of constituency boundaries but faces the dilemma of whether to increase the 193 constituencies.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera, speaking in Blantyre on Monday during the opening of a Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (Bridge) programme on Boundary Delimitation, said there is a general feeling among the electorate that some constituencies should be split because they are too big with difficult-to-reach patches to be serviced by one member of Parliament (MP).
On the other hand, Mbendera said, there is another school of thought that argues that with the coming into office of councillors, the number of MPs should be enough as councillors ease the workload.
He said: “If MPs concentrate on their legislative roles, then they cannot complain that the constituency is too big. We will have to tread carefully by having a clear formula and guidelines that will help us to have a successful exercise with a sustainable output and also considering the national resource envelope.”
Mbendera, who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said the demarcation of the constituency boundaries will consider the population density, ease of communication and geographical features and existing administrative areas.
Besides, he said, the overriding criterion is of ensuring equitable representation to ensure constituencies contain approximately equal number of voters eligible to register.
For the wards MEC is going to consider population density, geographical features, easy communication and the wishes of the people to ensure that ward boundaries do not cross local authority jurisdictions.
Speaking in an interview after the opening ceremony, People’s Party (PP) deputy secretary general Ulemu Chilapondwa, one of the participants, said the demarcation exercise will help tackle areas of equity where constituencies will have to be equally divided.
He said: “We are expecting a lot as People’s Party because we thought we need to do a lot in readiness for the 2019 elections and this exercise is part of it. We feel some constituencies are too big and some are very small and this is a disadvantage to those who belong to the constituencies that are too big because at the end of the day when we talk of development it is equally shared.”
The law provides that constituency boundaries should be reviewed at intervals of not more than five years, but since independence, the constituency boundaries have been altered seven times and the last time was in 1998.
The training course is being attended by MEC commissioners and political party secretaries general and directors of elections.n