The number of active political parties in the country have dropped from fifty to three, a development that is of great concern to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
This was revealed during declaration of results for December 2015 local by-elections. Speaking in Blantyre MEC Chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera said the country have over 50 registered parties but only three contested in by-elections.
During the Tripartite Elections only 19 elections participated. Whereas in the October 8, 2014 by- elections five political parties participated. In the August 25, 2015 by-elections seven political parties contested.
The active parties that contested includes Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and People’s Party (PP).
“Now the number of parties contesting is at three. This is raising questions that; if a party cannot contest in the national elections, cannot take part in by-elections, what elections will they participate in? Do we still need their existence in the political parties register or we should find a formula of deregistering such parties so that we remain with the active ones? There is a debate around this and I hope the scenario here will also contribute to the conclusion of the said discussion,”
The elections were also hit by reduced competition in Local Government By-elections. In the August by-elections that took place in five wards, four of the wards had six candidates while one had five candidates. But this time around both wards have two candidates each. This raises questions as to whether Malawi still value the position of councillors or not.
Mbendera added that the elections were nearly uncontested and was silent from the women empowerment,advocates. During the Tripartite Elections there were so many stakeholders rising up to give moral, technical and material support and encouraging women to contest in elections.
Stated the SC, “We have noted no firm action from the activists to support women participation. MEC adopted the cycle approach to elections management and we expect all the stakeholders to follow suit. They should not be active during national elections and then go under like submarines.”
“The by-elections offer an opportunity for the activists to concentrate their efforts and encourage women to participate in elections. There are many civil society groups that were accredited to help with voter education. However, many are not seen to be active during by-elections. We urge them to continue using their accreditation during by-elections. They should also adopt the electoral cycle approach.”
Currently he has advised Development Partners that provide support to the CSOs to continue pumping in funds to implement activities during the in-between the ballot period.
This is the third by-elections held after the 20 May, 2014 Tripartite Elections and was on 21st November in all the three areas. The Commission registered 2,368 (1,115 men and 1,253 women) first-time voters bringing the total number of registered voters to 67,557 from 65,189 registered in 2014. The Commission further received 10 nomination papers on 1st December 2015 through the Returning Officers.
There were six candidates in Zomba Chisi Constituency and two candidates in each of the two wards of Mtope and Ngala
Out of the 10 candidates who presented nomination papers, only 2 were women representing 20 per cent. One woman contested in Zomba Chisi and the other in Ngala Ward. Mtope Ward had no female contestant. If compared to the last by-elections on August 25 this year, the current situation is retrogressive.
According to MEC out of the 29 candidates who contested on August 25, a total of 8 were women representing 28 per cent.