Electoral stakeholders have agreed to delay the holding of parliamentary and local government by-elections in Nkhotakota, Dedza and Balaka citing the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is required by law to hold a by-election within 60 days of a parliamentary seat or constituency ward falling vacant.
MEC is supposed to hold parliamentary by-elections in Nkhotakota North East and Dedza Central East following the deaths of respective legislators Martha Chanjo Mhone (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) and Mcsteyn Swithin Mkomba (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) last month and in Chimwalire Ward in Balaka South Constituency following the death of councillor Joseph Daniel of DPP.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa yesterday said the commission met electoral stakeholders and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 on Monday in Lilongwe to consult on the by-elections.
“Following advice from the stakeholders and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, it was agreed that the process be delayed until Covid-19 cases have declined,” he said.
Mwafulirwa said MEC will engage Parliament to seek a waiver regarding the holding of the by-elections until such a time it will be safe to do so.
In a statement, Centre for Multiparty Democracy executive director Kizito Tenthani said MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale told the meeting that the electoral body needed to consult stakeholders bearing in mind that the country is battling the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “He [Kachale] outlined what MEC has been doing to conduct its business in a safe way. He proposed what political parties could do to ensure that they campaign while complying with public health guidelines and noting that MEC cannot enforce compliance. Nevertheless, MEC was keen to be guided.”
According to the statement, CMD board members observed that while politicians can commit to follow Covid-19 preventive guidelines, based on previous experiences they cannot control their followers.
In the statement, CMD vice-chairperson Grace Chupa acknowledged that political parties do not always comply with Covid-19 preventive guidelines, especially during campaigns.
Among others, the meeting was also attended by Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda and her co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 Dr Wilfred Chalamila.
In recent past, political parties have come under fire for defying Covid-19 precautionary measures, especially on public gatherings, social distancing and wearing of face masks, by holding campaign rallies.