The Government of Malawi and the Malawi Electoral Commission have now confirmed that local government elections will be held on 20 April 2011. This announcement came after several groups threatened to pull out of the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) and NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN)'s 50/50 Campaign.
This was due to a breakdown between the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development (MoGCCD) and MESN and NGOGCN. The following issues were at stake:
- The MoGCCD did not consult NGOGCN as its key partner in the 50/50 Campaign.
- MESN and NGOGCN also noted that they felt sidelined by the MoGCCD.
- MESN and NGOGCN realised that the MoGCCD, being a government entity, had an interest in the elections which might undermine democratic principles of accountability, transparency and equal and meaningful participation of others. Additionally, it poses a well founded fear that the Ministry could be partisan in choosing potential women candidates to support and also dictate what NGOs should do.
- Overall, MESN and NGOGCN noted that what was happening would stifle Civil Society Organisations' work in Malawi and thus lead to an undemocratic environment where governance and development are concerned.
MESN, NCOGNC and Civil Society Organisations concluded that that the Government wanted to politicise the campaign and therefore in solidarity with all other umbrella organisations involved in electoral matters, a decision was taken to openly announce through a press conference that they were pulling out of the campaign if Government did not reconsider its position. This was done in order to send a strong message to Government that MESN, NGOGCN and civil society organisations would not sit and watch the government use such campaigns to gain political mileage in the process suppressing the views of opposition as well as civil society organisations.
While the situation is being worked out, most development partners feel that NGOs should not be sidelined in this campaign because they were key to the 2009 achievement around the 50/50 Campaign, such that the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has initiated dialogue between NGOs and the Ministry of Gender so that NGOs agree to participate in Campaign. To this end, the MoGCCD and local organisations have reopened communications lines.
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