Concerns over timing of by-election in Karonga Northwest

Political and traditional leaders in Karonga Northwest constituency have expressed concern over the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) decision to hold by-elections in the area barely two weeks after the demise of the area’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator, James Bond Kamwambi, who died of Covid-19 at Chitipa District Hospital.

The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) district chairperson Emmanuel Nkhoma raised the concern on Friday when MEC Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mkumbwa launched the by-election at Maghemo secondary school in the constituency.

Nkhoma lamented that culturally, it is a taboo to conduct a by election during the mourning period or hold any other activity that demonstrates happiness.

He said: “The message to hold by-elections inn this constituency took us by surprise. It has come when we were still mourning our long time leader. However, we are ready for the run since MEC has already made its decision”.

The concern was reiterated on Saturday by group village headman Mweniyumba when MEC engaged traditional leaders to call them to mobilise their subjects to register and verify their names in the voters’ register during the exercise which runs Monday, February 22 to vote on March 30.

Culturally, Nkhondes can mourn their beloved ones for a period of six to 12 months before they elect a replacement according to the prominence of the fallen person ion the society.

However, Mkumbwa who also chairs the Audit committee of MEC said if indeed culture was a determining factor, the Commission would have waited a bit longer to pave way for people to mourn their beloved ones in the constituencies whose vacancy has come about due to death.

Mkumbwa-It is the law that guides us-Photograph by Jordan Simeon-Phiri

The Commissioner said just like any elections, by-elections are also guided by the country’s electoral laws which stipulate that every by-election must take place within 60 days after the seat has become vacant.

“As MEC we are also mourning with those people who lost their beloved ones. But it is the law that has tied our hands and we are compelled to conduct these by-elections because of that. And again, if we hold these elections at once with the court sanctioned by-elections of Chikwawa and Nsanje, we will save costs since we are supposed to print ballot pares outside Malawi,” he said.

Meanwhile, Paramount Chief Kyungu has cautioned political party leaders to make sure that they adhere to covid 19 preventive measures during campaign to control the spread of the virus.

MEC will on March 30 conduct by-elections in seven constituencies of Karonga Northwest, Ntchisi North, Lilongwe Msinja South, Zomba Changalume, Nsanje Central, Nsanje North and Chikwawa East and Riviridzi and Chitakale Wards.

In Karonga Northwest, about 52, 000 voters cast their votes in the 2019 Parliamentary Elections.

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