Machinga, September 9, Mana: Paramount Chief Kawinga has asked Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to consider setting up special wards in hard-to-reach areas such as Chaone Hills in Machinga.
He said people in hard-to-reach areas are not fully represented by their Member of Parliament and Council because of geographic challenges, noting: “This demarcation exercise should give people in hard-to-reach areas such as Chaone an opportunity to be fully represented.”
Kawinga observed that development was derailed in areas that are underrepresented and thanked MEC for including all stakeholders in the exercise including chiefs, saying the success of the commission depends on active participation of every citizen.
The Paramount Chief asked traditional leaders and elected members such as parliamentarians and councillors to be impartial when participating in the exercise.
MEC Chairperson, Justice Dr. Chifundo Kachale said the responsibility of setting up a constituency or a ward remains with the people, saying the commission would only guide people on factors to consider when considering the demarcation.
“The primary consideration is the size of eligible voters but the law recognises that there are other subsidiary factors which can be taken into account like population density and geographical features,” he said.
Kachale said where there was a special need, there would be room for the Commission to consider but it would depend on what the people demand, adding that they would at a certain point give chance to stakeholders to see the new constituency maps.
The Chairperson said not all proposals would be accepted but the Commission would be responsible to explain reasons for each proposal.
“We would like to assure all stakeholders that no decision will be taken without their input and every decision taken will have to be justified,” Kachale said, adding that the exercise of reviewing boundaries was very important since it ensures that all constituencies are equitable.
“In a democracy, every person has a vote and it is the vote which determines who goes to parliament,” he said.
Kachale added that big constituencies are an underrepresentation because the votes don’t have the same value compared to smaller ones.
Member of Parliament for Machinga East, Esther Jolobala said apart from looking at the constituency demarcation, the exercise should address allocation of polling centres in the constituencies.
“In Machinga East Constituency, for example, people walk long distances to exercise their right to vote. So, my plea to the Commission is to consider putting 15 more polling centres,” she suggested.
Machinga has seven constituencies and 14 wards.