Malawi: Coronavirus May Disrupt Malawi Fresh Elections

President Peter Mutharika (file photo).
23 March 2020

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) fear that though the country has not yet recorded any coronavirus case, the spreading virus could threaten the staging of the Constitutional Court-ordered presidential elections, which has been scheduled for July 2 .

MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said on Monday when she announced that the re-run will be held on July 2 that Corona virus has affected a lot of activities and elections are not an exemption.

"The successful implementation of the election calendar will be subject to the mitigation of the impact of the coronavirus including travel embargoes and shutdown of election materials production companies," said Ansah.

Ansah said MEC will undertake to ensure the safety of its staff, both at headquarters and in the field, during the implementation of the electoral process.

" There will be masks, gloves, water and hand sanitisers for use in all places. And there will be strict observance of distances between individuals as well as gatherings of less than 100 people during meetings.

" I urge all electoral stakeholders, including political parties, to join hands with the Commission in observing and applying the same measures in all their undertakings as directed by the State President, His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika," Ansah said.

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

Ansah stressed that successful implementation of the election calendar which has been launched on Monday will be subject to mitigation of the impact of the coronavirus including travel embargos and shutdown of election materials production companies.

Political analyst Henry Chingaipe says managing crowds during registration and voting may pose a huge challenge as it has the potential to bring about voter apathy.

While he agrees with measures put in place to avoid coronavirus, he said the petitioners to the court case may go back to court and seek further guidance, saying this would be more procedural than where the electoral body decides to vary the calendar on the basis of the deadly virus.

Said Chingaipe in quotes reported in the press: "They can go back to court and report progress on the implementation of the order and also present their case in terms of the circumstances surrounding the implementation of the orders and seek fresh guidance.

"The court is a reasonable court ... if it is extension of time that should be the direction the court itself may make, no one should take it upon themselves that there is coronavirus, therefore, we will change the time."

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