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The Electoral Commission of Malawi is established under section 75 of the Constitution.
The Malawi Electoral Commission comprises of a Chairperson, who is a judge nominated by the Judicial Service Commission and at least six Commissioners appointed by the President in consultation with political parties represented in Parliament. The President appoints suitably qualified persons to be members of the commission and the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament determines their conditions of Service.
The Chairperson is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Commission, while the other members are nominated by an Act of Parliament for a four year period, unless re- appointed for a new term. Even though the security of tenure of the Commissioners is entrenched in the Constitution, there has been one case of an unfair dismissal of a Commissioner.
The independence of the Commission is expressly guaranteed in the Constitution, which provides that it shall exercise its powers, functions and duties independent of any direction or interference by other authority or any person.
The Commission has powers to appoint such other professional, technical officers and support staff as it deems necessary on such terms and conditions. There may also be seconded to the Commission such number of public officers that the Commission may arrange with the appropriate authority.
The Commission is serviced by the Secretariat headed by the Chief Elections Officer appointed by the Electoral Commission. The CEO is the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission and is answerable only to the Commission.
The Commission is accountable to the President. It is required to report to the President on the overall fulfilment of its functions and powers. While the independence of the Commission is guaranteed in the Constitution, the Electoral Commission Act of 1998 gives a cabinet minister the power to make regulations for the better carrying out of the Commission’s work. The minister must however promulgate such regulations on the recommendation of the Commission.
The exercise of the powers and functions of the Commission are subject to judicial review. Its accounts are audited annually by the Auditor General. The Commission has power to hire and discipline its own staff.
The functions of the Commission are spelt out in the Constitution, Electoral Act, Presidential Elections Act of 1993 and the Local Government Elections Act of 1998. These functions include:
The Commission is funded by the government through the Ministry of Finance. This arrangement has seriously impeded the efficiency of the Commission in that, the funding is usually inadequate for the operations of the Commission and there have also been delays in disbursing the funds resulting in delays and failure by the Commission in executing its mandate.