Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has embarked on a constituency and ward boundary review and the exercise will lead to an increase in the number of Members of Parliament (MPs).
MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale said yesterday in Lilongwe that the commission has a budget of K1.5 billion for the exercise and expects the final outcome to be known by December 2022. The determination of the new boundaries will have to be adopted by Parliament in order to be implemented.
Responding to concerns over the economic cost of increasing the number of MPs which is currently 193, Kachale said the economic cost could be balanced by political benefits arising from the exercise.
“We should remember that the economic cost of democracy may be offset by political benefits that arise from a population that feels like everybody voice is benefited.
“Whatever we may think about the caliber of people in the House, they are people who put themselves forward in a competitive electoral process and voters chose them as people who can represent them. They are a sample of ourselves and have earned their right to sit in that House,” said Kachale.
For the review exercise, MEC has adopted a formula which provides that an ideal constituency is supposed to contain approximately 50,117 eligible voters but, in some situations, a smallest constituency will have 40, 094 voters and the largest will have 60,140.
The commission anticipates some councils might gain constituencies during the process but has said no council will lose an existing constituency.
“The existing boundaries will have to be revisited. New boundaries will be drawn and will not necessarily follow the current ones since the current boundaries were drawn without regard to the constitutional provision and cannot hold considering the current demographics,” said Kachale.
He added that administrative boundaries will be restricted to local authorities. The commission expects that the review of constituency and ward boundaries, depending on the population and tolerance, could be a combination of several traditional authorities forming one constituency. However, a constituency will not split a traditional authority but can combine one or more traditional authorities.
Kachale acknowledged that the exercise is sensitive because the number of constituencies determines representation of political parties in Parliament. He added that the commission has to manage the process in a manner that recognizes that it has implications on democracy.
He said: “The Commission undertakes to follow the law to ensure fairness and impartiality. The Commission will take all precautionary measures to ensure that all stakeholders are given adequate information of the process.”