Malawi's Electoral Commission (MEC) will begin receiving nomination papers for presidential, parliamentary and local level elections beginning on Monday, ahead of the May 20 vote, says Sangwani Mwafulirwa, spokesman for the electoral commission.
On January 15, Mwafulirwa says, the MEC gave all political parties their nomination papers -- to give them ample time to gather supporting materials before submitting the documents to the electoral body for screening and possible acceptance.
He also says for the first time, prospective voters will witness three debates, among the presidential candidates which will be broadcast on radio, television and social media platforms.
"Starting May 10th the Malawi Electoral Commission will start receiving nomination papers for candidates," said Mwafulirwa. "For presidential candidates they are going to submit it to the Malawi Electoral Commission in Blantyre, but for candidates who are competing for local government and also parliamentary elections, they will be submitting their nomination papers to their district commissioners in their areas," he said.
He says the MEC will scrutinize all documents to determine whether the candidates meet requirements that will allow them participate in the May general election.
"After receiving the nomination papers we are going to screen them... a nomination paper needs to be supported by at least 10 people from the constituency and also 10 people from the district that is in case of local government, parliamentary and presidential election respectively, said Mwafulirwa. "We need to verify that these people who supported the nomination papers are registered voters or not."
The MEC, Mwafulirwa says, will release a list of qualified candidates before March 20, well ahead of the general election.
The electoral body has almost completed the first part of the process of compiling a final voters list for the elections.
"We are compiling the voters role at the moment, and we are optimistic that come early March or thereabout we should be able to display this voters role for people to go and inspect how their details appear on the register," said Mwafulirwa.
He also says the electoral body and the Presidential Debate Task Force Committee are working with political parties to agree on how the debates will be staged.
"So far we have some clear picture about. We are planning for three debates which will be in all the three regions," said Mwafulirwa. "We are also planning to meet with the secretary generals of the presidential candidates just to agree on the final modalities of the debates. We are also finalizing and mobilizing to make sure that we give people the best."
Mwafulirwa says the electoral commission has established a platform that includes all stakeholders to address concerns of political parties ahead of the elections to ensure a transparent and credible vote.