Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says it is determined to complete the constituency demarcation exercise and is taking all necessary steps to ensure that the final report is accepted by Parliament.
Speaking yesterday during a national address on the progress of the boundary review process, MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale assured Malawians that the Commission will remain impartial and professional during the process.
“The Commission is aware that its decisions can be challenged in a court of law and as a Commission will ensure that all legal provisions are followed and complied with to the letter in this exercise so that the decisions are not overturned in the case of a challenge,” said Kachale.
Malawi currently has 193 constituencies which were recreated during the last review process in 1998. It is expected that the number of constituencies will increase after the current process.
So far, MEC has created Constituency and Ward Boundaries Review Committees (CWBRC) in every council which will be drawing boundary scenarios, drawing preliminary constituency boundaries and coming up with boundary descriptions on enumeration maps in the office
The committees will also verify boundary descriptions in the field, review constituency/ward boundaries and submit district reports and offer recommendations to the Commission on how electoral divisions should look like.
According to Kachale, the Commission retains the authority over the implementation of the boundary review activities and the district committees will work on delegated authority of the Commission to carryout tasks assigned to them.
“The Committees are expected to be impartial, apolitical, and professional and demonstrate all the core values of the Commission throughout the process,” said Kachale.
He noted that MEC, during sensititsation meetings, has received requests to give each Traditional Authority a Member of Parliament so that the boundary of a constituency should align with those of Area Development Committee (ADC).
Kachale said the principal factor in the boundary review is population of people eligible to register to vote as prescribed by the law.
“But still in the course of re-aligning boundaries the Commission will, where possible, avoid splitting boundaries of traditional leaders because we recognize that the constituency has to operate with the set administrative boundaries,” he said.
He added the commission will ensure that ward boundaries should respect council boundaries as some constituencies have wards in two councils. He also said that at the moment there are no specific constituencies earmarked for demarcation.
Kachale, however, dismissed concerns that political parties will influence the MEC to manipulate boundaries in their favor.
“The Commission works independently and follows the legal provisions. The Commission will implement all activities in a transparent manner and the public will be able to follow, scrutinize and question everything,” he said.
Section 76(2)(a) of the Constitution and Section 8(a) and (c) of the Electoral Commission Act give powers to the Commission to determine the number and boundaries of constituencies and wards for purposes of elections.
The law has left it to the discretion of the Commission to determine the number of constituencies: to reduce or increase. There is neither minimum no maximum numbers of Constituencies set by the law.
In the case of constituencies, the paramount consideration is equitable representation in parliament. The Commission has the responsibility of ensuring that “constituencies contain approximately equal number of voters eligible to register”.