27 June 2014

Malawi: Britain Calls On Govt to Reduce Donor Dependency On Election Process

Blantyre — British High Commissioner to Malawi Michael Nevin says donor contributions to Malawi electoral process need to be vastly reduced, saying elections are integral to a country's democracy and national standing and should be owned by the country rather than majority funded by donors.

Nevin said this in Lilongwe on Thursday during the elections review meeting organized by Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn).

He said Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) needs dedicated funding over a 5 year cycle, not just in the last months before an election as what happens in Malawi.

"There might also be consideration of MEC funding; it needs dedicated funding over a 5 year cycle, not just in the last months before an election.

"Donor contributions need to be vastly reduced; we resisted the then government's request for donors to fund the majority of elections. Elections are integral to a country's democracy and national standing, and should be owned by the country rather than mainly funded by donors. But to receive funding, MEC will need to ensure its financial management systems are robust and secure.

"There is much to learn from these elections and I encourage reform while that learning is still fresh in people's minds, perhaps consider investing in the 5 year elections cycle, rather than just the last few months leading up to an election.

"Ensure there is confidence that the leadership of MEC secretariat is competent and professional enough to deliver. The electoral law and regulations too could be reviewed quickly to remove the grey areas that can weaken the electoral process.

"Remember to strengthen legitimacy laws on party and campaign financing among others. And the low number of women elected to political office - for example, only 30 out of 192 MPs should be of concern to all," said Nevin

Nevin said in Malawi, It is not clear whether a voter votes for a candidate because of the candidate's personal qualities, or they are voting for a candidate because they belong to a particular party.

He added that in Malawi, Section 65 forbids floor-crossing, however in the previous parliament, and those before it, never implemented it saying this undermines the principle and primacy of the rule of law.

"So it is preferable perhaps that Section 65 is either fully adhered to avoid damaging the rule of law.

"The use of state resources, particularly for campaigning, could be more clearly defined. In the United Kingdom, government ministers have avoid use of any resource for party purposes, even switching from government cars to private cars when attending party events.

"This might go hand-in-hand with consideration of more transparency around party and candidate financing," he said.

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