The Malawi Electoral Commission(MEC) launched the 2019 Tripartite Elections on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at the Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe.
During the launch the Commission released an electoral calendar outlining activities to be implemented from now till the end of the elections.
But what is an electoral calendar? Taking the literal meaning of the two words, the meaning is easy to get and literary that is what it is. An electoral calendar is a sequence of events for an election showing the timing and duration.
What determines what goes into an electoral calendar? There is a shift in paradigm whereby elections are no longer treated as an event but a cycle with three phases: pre-electoral, electoral and post-electoral periods. An electoral calendar consists of activities that are carried out in the pre-electoral and electoral period and these include:
· Demarcation: This is where the Commission reviews boundaries of wards and constituencies basing on the number of eligible voters eligible to register, principles of population density, geographical features and other factors that are stipulated in the constitution. The main aim is to ensure that there is almost equal representation of the population.
· Registration of voters: The Commission registers those who have fulfilled the requirements of the law so that they are eligible to register. As for 2019 Elections this exercise will be conducted in six phases running from 24th May to 30th August, 2018. Each phase will run for a period of 14 days irrespective of holidays and weekends
· Voter verification: The Commission will open all registration centres for voter inspection from October 3 to November 8, 2018. This exercise will be done in four phases. This exercise gives an opportunity to identify anomalies and address them while there is still time unlike identifying them on the polling day.
· Nomination: This is the stage whereby eligible contestants express their intention to the Commission to run for an office. The process is that aspirants will collect nomination forms from constituency returning offices, the District Commissioner’s offices and the MEC head office, especially for the Presidency from 3rd January, 2019. These forms have to be submitted between 4th to 8th February, 2019 together with relevant documents and a nomination fee as determined by the Commission.
· Official Campaign Period: The Official campaign period runs for 60 calendar days and ends 48 hours before start of polling. This is the period candidates who have been successful with their nominations, go out to sell themselves to the electorate. This period will run from 19th March to 6AM on 19th May, 2019.
· Polling: This is when registered voters will on 21st May, 2019 go to the centre where they registered to vote for a ward councillor, Member of Parliament and the State President.
· Determination and Announcement of Results: After polling the results are counted at the same polling centre then transmitted to the tally centre. After all results are counted they are presented to the Commissioners who determine, declare and announce the winner of the polls. Presidential results are expected by 29th May while Parliamentary should be out by 4th June and Local Government by 11th June, 2019.
There are other activities that take place in these two electoral periods apart from the major ones cited above. These include civic and voter education which runs through all the stages, procurement of materials and equipment, review of nomination forms, ballot paper and voters’ roll printing and recruitment and training of various staff depending on the stage of the electoral calendar.