The United States of America (USA) has advised the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to prepare adequately and get things right if the country is to have successful tripartite elections next year.
It will be the first time Malawi will hold three elections at a single go, allowing voters to elect a President, members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on Thursday, US Ambassador Jeanine Jackson also said although the country’s developing partners will assist in the elections, successful tripartite elections will depend on how the Malawi Government commits its own resources to the exercise.
She said: “It is very complicated than the previous ones and it is very important that MEC get this right. The most important, in addition to all the structures and the logistics, is the civic education.”
Jackson said civic education was very important for the voters as well as the aspiring councillors and MPs so that all the players should understand the different roles that the local councillors and the MPs have to play.
She said at the moment, it is clear that not many Malawians understand what MPs and councillors would be doing.
Jackson said the USA, just like other partners, is ready to support the process, especially in programming with much focus on civic education and security.
She said: “We believe that things can be on track if government allocates proper amount of budget for the elections which is a complicated elections with a number of candidates participating.”
Another bone of contention has been the harmonisation of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) and the Local Government Elections Act (LGEA) as well as an amendment to the Electoral Commission Act (ECA) to ensure a smooth process.
Parliament on Thursday passed the ECA (Amendment) Bill and the LGEA (Amendment) Bill, but it is yet to finalise the PPEA (Amendment) Bill after the Bill was referred to the Legal Affairs Committee of the House for further scrutiny.
According to MEC, the tripartite elections are expected to cost almost K18.4 billion (about $46m) and during a recent meeting with the donors it was agreed that Malawi should contribute at least 60 percent of the total budget with the donors putting in the other 40 percent.
In his 2013/14 National Budget presentation in Parliament on Friday, Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga said the budget will provide resources for the elections and budget documents show that about K11.1 billion (about $27.7m).
In an interview on Saturday, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said despite the elections not yet being launched, the process is still on schedule and that the commission has gone ahead to undertake some of the preparatory activities.
He said the launch was basically aimed at briefing stakeholders on the calendar and the activities lined up in readiness for the polls next year.
During the interview, Jackson also spoke on the country’s governance and human rights direction, observing that the situation so far since Malawi President Joyce Banda took over government in April 2012 was improving although there are still areas that have to be worked on.