Malawi 50 years later: the importance of the 2014 elections
This year marks the 50th independence anniversary in Malawi and tomorrow the first-ever tripartite elections in the country will take place, an event that offers a unique opportunity to consolidate democracy in the country.
Over 7.4 million people are registered to vote, a 16 percent increase from the elections in 2009, and according to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the majority are women.
Miriam Kwanjo is one of those registered voters. She sells firewood at ‘Area 25’ market: “I am 56 years old and this will be the first time I am going to vote. In the past, no one ever clearly explained to me why I needed to vote. I felt that standing on the queue the whole day was just a waste of my time. This year, I have had a chance of listening to the candidates as well as getting information through the radio and I know it is my right to vote.”
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is implementing a project called Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (MECS), designed to support and strengthen the capacities of the Malawi Electoral Commission to plan, conduct and supervise credible, free and fair elections. MECS is also mandated to ensure broad inclusiveness and informed participation among electoral stakeholders, including voters, candidates and the media.
Ensure a strong female electoral participation
In order to promote a 50 percent female representation in decision making positions in the country, Malawi embarked on a 50:50 campaign, led by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare.
Almost 700 women who are participating in the elections as either Members of Parliament or councilors have benefited from the trainings and the IEC materials, provided to support their campaigns.
The MECS project is also contributing to promote other institutional development and electoral reforms in line with the MEC’s 2012-2017 Strategic Plan. One such reform is the creation of a basket fund through which development partners have provided financial resources to support the electoral process and impending elections in Malawi.
Approximately 18 million US Dollars are budgeted under the basket fund, with contributions from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID), the European Union, Ireland, Norway, Japan through the Government of Malawi and UNDP. This constituted about 40 percent of the entire elections budget.