Preliminary maps indicating proposed new constituency and ward boundaries have drawn mixed reactions from some stakeholders with some sections of the electorate not appreciating the essence of the exercise.
The reactions follow the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) submission of the proposed constituency and ward boundary maps to district councils last week for public viewing and input.
In an interview yesterday, Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Livingstonia Church and Society executive director Moses Mkandawire said the majority of people still do not understand what the constituency demarcation exercise wants to achieve.
He observed that some people in the Northern Region wondered why only four constituencies were added in the region while the Central and Southern regions gained more than 10 new constituencies each.
Mkandawire said: “The other concern is that is it necessary that we should have more constituencies from 193 to 228? What is it we are solving?
“We should also look at the economy of the country. Can we be financing all these constituencies given the salaries, some of the benefits people get, but also given the quality of some members of Parliament [MPs]? Can we not move as a nation if we were to have 100 to 120 constituencies?”
He observed that Zambia was bigger in size than Malawi, but has about 160 seats in Parliament.
In a separate interview, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said people’s reaction to preliminary maps proposal for constituency and wards boundaries have been mixed.
He said some people, particularly from areas where constituencies have been split, welcome the exercise, adding that it will enhance representation.
Chibwana said: “Others are saying if we had intensified the roles of ward councillors to initiate local development initiatives and the MP his role be that of legislation.
“A country like Malawi having 228 constituencies, it’s really eating on the meagre resources that we already have.”
On his part, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira suggested that MEC should put in place a transparent and independent grievances or complaints handling mechanism to adequately deal with emerging complaints.
But in earlier interview on Thursday after visiting Dowa and Salima where maps were displayed, MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale assured Malawians that whatever suggestion they make, will be taken into account, but subject to what the law permits it to consider.
He said “The people should be assured because even the maps we have produced have taken into full account all the considerations and suggestions that were given by the people.”
MEC embarked on the constituency and ward boundary re-demarcation exercise in November 2021.
The results saw the proposed creation of additional 35 constituencies effective 2025 Tripartite Elections to increase seats in Parliament from the current 193 to 228.
MEC proposed that the Northern Region will have 37 constituencies from the current 33, an increase of four while the Central Region will have 20 new constituencies from 73 to 93 and the Southern Region will have 98 constituencies, a jump of 11 from 87.
The expansion, once approved by Parliament, will have a significant economic bearing as each MP receives around K2.2 million monthly package, excluding allowances.