Corona Virus set to disrupt election preparation

The Corona virus pandemic which has led to government issuing measures such as ban to public gatherings is set to be a major disruption to the preparation of the fresh elections that are due to be held in May this year.

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) plans to meet to decide how to implement the electoral calendar in preparation for fresh presidential elections following the ban on gathering of up to 100 people as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus.

But analysts say though the ban has the potential to affect preparations for the Constitutional Court-ordered presidential elections, MEC has no power to change the date for the polls scheduled for May 19 2020.

In an interview , MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said commissioners are expected to meet soon and come up with a position on how to respond to the order. She said the President’s statement must be taken seriously.

“We have seen the statement, but I cannot answer on my own for now. We will have to meet and make a decision as a commission because this is a serious matter. I cannot tell you if preparations will be affected or not but you must know that coronavirus is not a joke,” she said.

MEC Chair Jane Ansah

Electoral processes such as registration, civic education and political parties’ campaign rallies and voting attract large gathering of people.

President Peter Mutharika on friday declared Malawi a State of Disaster and made a number of orders, including the ban on gatherings.

Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which has entered into an alliance with UTM Party and others, says while it appreciates the instituted measures to contain coronavirus, but expects government to equally respect the court order to hold elections within the agreed time.

MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali said elections can still take place even when public gatherings are banned.

He said each political party and indeed the electoral body can implement all activities with extra care.

“While we are working to contain this global pandemic, we must know that we have a national issue to attend

 to [elections] and we must do everything to avoid a constitutional crisis.

“All these are important issues we need to focus on. We do not want to have anyone frustrate the electoral process using the coronavirus,” said Munthali.