Local Government Elections Act
- Commenced on 5 August 1996
- [This is the version of this document from 3 November 2020.]
- [Note: This version of the Act was revised and consolidated in the Fifth Revised Edition of the Laws of Malawi (L.R.O. 1/2018), by the Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice under the authority of the Revision of the Laws Act.]
- [Amended by Local Government Elections (Amendment) Act, 2020 (Act 19 of 2020) on 3 November 2020]
Part I – Preliminary
1. Short titleThis Act may be cited as the Local Government Elections Act.
2. InterpretationIn this Act, unless the context otherwise requires—“candidate” means a person who has been nominated under this Act as a candidate for election as a councillor;“Commission” means the Electoral Commission established under section 75 of the Constitution and appointed in accordance with the Electoral Commission Act;[Cap. 2:03]“by-election” means the election of a councillor to fill a seat on the council which has become vacant otherwise than by dissolution of the council;“Chief Elections Officer” means the person appointed as such under section 4;“councillor” means a person elected under this Act to the office of councillor of a council;“election” means an election to the office of councillor of a council;“election officer” means the Chief Elections Officer and any officer subordinate to him and any other officer in the service of the Commission, including an officer appointed or designated as a registration officer, polling station officer, presiding officer and returning officer;“irregularity”, in relation to the conduct of an election, means non-compliance with the requirements of this Act.“nomination day” means the day appointed by the Commission for the receipt of nominations of candidates for an election under this Act;“polling day” means any day appointed by the Commission under section 28 for the holding of a poll;“polling station” means a place established as such under section 51;“polling station officer” means a person appointed as such under section 52;“presiding officer” means a polling station officer designated as such under section 52;“registration” means the registration of voters in an election;“voter” means a person registered to vote in an election;“voter’s register” means the register of voters established under section 13;“voters’ registration certificate” means a certificate issued to a voter under section 15;“voting booth” means a compartment at a polling station for screening a voter from view when he is making his choice in the poll;“ward” means an area delimited as such under section 3.
Part II – Functions and powers of the Commission
3. ***[Repealed by Act No. 7 of 1999]
4. ***[Repealed by Act No. 7 of 1999]
5. ***[Repealed by Act No. 7 of 1999]
Part III – Registration of voters
6. EligibilityAny person residing in Malawi and who, on or before the polling day, shall have attained the age of eighteen years shall be eligible to register as a voter in an election.
7. Right and duty to registerIt shall be the right and the civic duty of every eligible person residing in Malawi to present himself for registration as a voter and further he shall have the right to verify with the Commission or its officers that he has been registered and to request that any error or omission with respect to his registration be corrected.
8. Duty to promote registrationThe Commission shall, in accordance with this Act, create the necessary conditions and take all necessary actions for promoting awareness amongst persons residing in Malawi of the need to register as a voter for the purpose of an election and of the need for their full participation in the election.
9. Single registrationA person eligible to register as a voter shall be registered only once.
10. Place of registrationA person shall be registered as a voter in the area where he ordinarily resides or was born or is employed or carries on business.
11. Temporary registration officers
12. Registration centers
13. Voters registersVoters registers shall be in the prescribed form and the Commission shall procure sufficient copies thereof for the registration of voters throughout Malawi and for distribution to registration officers at every registration centre and for that purpose may adopt existing voters registers which shall, as necessary, be updated by registration officers with new registrations.
14. Evidence of a person’s eligibility to voteAn eligible person wishing to be registered as voter in an election shall in person state that he is not registered at any other registration centre and shall present to a registration officer sufficient and cogent proof of his eligibility and may do so by producing—
15. Registration and issue of voters’ registration certificate
16. Updating of voters registers
17. Initialing of pages in voters rollsIn the case of registration in a new voters register, the registration officer shall initial both sides of every page at a point where registration on the page ends.
18. Monitoring of registration by political parties
19. Rights and duties of representatives of political parties
20. Period for registration of votersThe period for the registration of voters shall be determined by the Commission and notified in the Gazette, being a period of not less than fourteen days expiring not less than twenty-one days before the first polling day.
21. Closing of registrationAt the close of registration, every registration officer shall sign off the voters register assigned to him and shall forward it for custody to the Chief Elections Officer or to such other officer as is designated by the Commission for the purpose and shall submit to such officer a summary of the total number of voters registered in the area assigned to him.
22. Voters register open to inspectionA voters register shall be open to inspection, for purposes of verifying the entries therein, by voters, representatives of political parties and observers, and for this purpose the Commission shall make copies of voters registers and post them for inspection at appropriate public places made known to the public.
Part IV – Holding of elections and by-elections
Division 1 — General
23. Election and by-election
24. Delay in publication of notice pending appealWhen a councillor has been sentenced by a court to death or imprisonment for a term exceeding six months without the option of a fine, is adjudged or declared by court to be of unsound mind or bankrupt, or has been convicted of any offence prescribed under this Act, it shall not be necessary for the Commission to give notice that such member’s seat has become vacant until the time for appeal against such decision has expired or, if there is an appeal, until the determination of that appeal.
25. Appointment of returning officers
26. Election representativeEvery candidate may appoint one person to be his election representative and notify in writing the returning officer of the ward in which he is, or intends to be a candidate, of the name of the person so appointed.
Division 2 — Nomination of councillors
27. Qualifications of councillors
28. Procedure for commencing conduct of elections
29. Nomination of candidates
30. Nomination paper and supporting documents
31. Invalid nominationsWhere a nomination paper is delivered in conformity with this Part and it is not withdrawn, the candidate shall be deemed to stand nominated unless the returning officer is satisfied of the candidate’s death or decides that the nomination paper is invalid on one of the following grounds, but on no other grounds, namely—
32. Rejected nominations
33. No nomination of candidateIf at the end of the period allowed for nomination no candidate has been duly nominated for a ward, the Commission shall by notice published in the Gazette, extend the period for the receipt by the returning officer of nominations to a date not later than seven days before the polling day.
33A. Publication of names of candidates for election as councillorAfter receiving nominations of candidates for election as councillor under this Part, the Commission shall, within twenty-one days after receiving the nominations, cause to be published in the Gazette and on the radio and in at least two newspapers in general circulation in Malawi the names of all candidates who have been validly nominated for election as a councillor in alphabetical order of surnames.[9 of 2013]
34. Procedure for uncontested electionIf at the end of the period allowed for nomination there shall be only one candidate duly nominated in a ward, the returning officer shall publicly declare that candidate to be elected and shall immediately thereafter inform the Commission of the name of the elected candidate and the ward for which he has been elected, and each candidate shall thereupon be a member of the council.
35. Procedure when poll to be held
36. Special provisions with respect to by-elections
37. Deposit on nomination
38. Withdrawal of a candidate
39. Death of candidate
Part V – Campaigning
40. Campaigning by candidatesAll candidates shall have the right to campaign in an election.
41. Period of campaigningFor the purpose of this Act the period of campaigning by every candidate under this Part shall be a period of two months closing forty-eight hours before the opening of the poll on the first polling day:Provided that in the case of the first election such period shall be of any duration closing forty-eight hours before the opening of the poll on the first polling day.
42. Equal treatment of candidatesEvery public officer and public entity or authority shall give and be seen to give equal treatment to all candidates to enable each candidate to conduct his campaign freely.
43. Freedom of expression and informationEvery candidate and every representative or supporter the candidate shall enjoy complete and unhindered freedom of expression and information in the exercise of the right to campaign under this Act and no person shall, during or after the period of campaigning, be subjected to any criminal prosecution for any statement he made or any opinion he held or any campaign material he produced, published or possessed while campaigning in the election:Provided that no person shall in campaigning in an election use language which is inflammatory, defamatory or insulting or which constitutes incitement to public disorder, insurrection, hate, violence or war.
44. Freedom of assemblyEvery candidate and any representative or supporter of the candidate shall, either alone or in common with others, enjoy complete and unhindered freedom of peaceful assembly in campaigning in any election.
45. Code of conductThe Commission may prescribe a code of conduct to be complied with by every candidate in conducting his campaign in an election.
46. Prohibited places for campaigningNo person shall hold a campaign meeting under this Act in or within the premises of—
47. News broadcasts and reports
48. Publication of books, pamphlets, etc.During the campaign period any candidate may publish campaign materials in the form of books, booklets, pamphlets, leaflets, magazines or newspapers and shall, in any such publication, specify particulars sufficient to identify the candidate.
49. Campaign postersThe District Commissioner shall designate places or spaces in parts of his district on which may be posted or affixed campaign materials of candidates and every candidate shall be entitled to equal access to such place or space.
50. Campaign financingEvery candidate may, for the purpose of financing his campaign, appeal for and receive voluntary contributions from any individual or any non-governmental organization or other private organization in or outside Malawi.
Part VI – Polling stations
51. Polling stations
52. Polling station officers
53. Working hours for polling station officersEvery polling station officer shall, on the polling day, report for work at the polling station not later than thirty minutes before the opening time for the casting of votes at that polling station and at any given time of the polling day there shall be a majority of polling station officers attending to their business at the polling station.
54. Work items for polling station officersThe Commission shall ensure, in due time, that polling station officers at every polling station are supplied with all necessary items, namely—
55. Security of work items at polling stationPresiding officers at polling stations and, in general, the Commission shall be responsible for creating and guaranteeing all necessary and indispensable conditions for the custody, conservation, security and inviolability of the items specified in section 54, including more particularly the ballot papers and ballot boxes.
56. Monitoring of voting by candidates
57. Rights and duties of representatives of candidates
Part VII – The vote and the voting process
58. Characteristic of the vote
59. Place where to cast the vote
60. Ballot papers
61. Voting boothsThe Commission shall establish one voting booth or more at each polling station and a voting booth shall be constructed in such a way as to screen a voter from observation when he is casting his vote according to his choice consistent with the doctrine of secret ballot.
62. Ballot boxes
63. Right of employees to be released for votingNotwithstanding any provision to the contrary in any contract of employment, all persons in paid employment, including those working by shift, shall have the right to be released for the necessary time to exercise their right to vote.
64. Hours of votingOn the polling day voting shall begin at 6 o’clock in the morning and close at 6 o’clock in the evening, but before voting begins the presiding officer, together with the other polling station officers and representatives of candidates, shall verify that there are no irregularities with the voting booth and the working documents of the polling station officers and, shall, in particular, exhibit in front of all present the ballot box to verify that it is empty after which the ballot box shall be closed and sealed.
65. Order of votingUpon verification in accordance with section 64 that there are no irregularities, the first persons to be allowed to vote shall be the presiding officer, the other polling station officers, representatives of candidates and all officers responsible for ensuring order and security at the polling station after whom all other persons shall vote according to the order of their arrival at the polling station and, to this end, they shall form a line; but subject thereto, the presiding officer shall exercise general powers for keeping order at the polling station and for regulating the number of persons to be admitted to vote at any time and may, if circumstances so require, use his discretion to allow certain persons to vote inconsistently with the order of priority required by this section.
66. Continuity of the voting processSubject to section 67, voting at every polling station shall continue uninterrupted until closed.
67. Adjournment in certain cases
68. Prohibited presence, etc., at polling stations
69. Requirements for exercising the right to voteFor a person to be allowed to vote he must first present to the polling station officers his voters registration certificate and must have not yet exercised his right to vote.
70. Manner of casting the vote
71. Voting by blind and disabled personsA voter who is blind or is affected by disease or other physical disability may vote accompanied by another registered voter of his own choice or, failing such voter, by a polling station officer who shall assist such person in casting his vote and shall act faithfully to the wish expressed by such person and with absolute secrecy regarding the vote cast by such person.
72. Null and void votes
73. Doubts and complaints
Part VIII – Determination of results of the elections
74. Unused ballot papersAt the close of the poll at any polling station, the presiding officer shall proceed by first collecting together and separately all unused ballot papers and placing them in a separate envelope provided to him for the purpose and then sealing the envelope and initialling or stamping it over the sealed area.
75. Classification of votes castFor the purposes of determining the results of the elections at a polling station and, in particular, in counting the votes thereat, the votes cast at a polling station shall be separately classified into—
76. Opening of ballot box and counting of votesAfter the close of the poll at any polling station, and only thereafter, the presiding officer shall, in the presence of other polling station officers and representatives of candidates if any be present, open the ballot box and order the counting of the votes to proceed separately according to a procedure entailing the polling station officers—
77. Record of the polling process
78. Delivery of ballot papers, etc., from polling stationsThe presiding officer of a polling station shall, with all dispatch, deliver to the office of the District Commissioner of his district under conditions of absolute security against loss, tampering or interference—
79. Compilation of the district result of the election
80. Determination of the national result of the election
81. Analysis of complaints, etc., prior to determination of the national resultAt the beginning of determining the national result of an election, the Commission shall take a decision on any matter which has been a subject of a complaint and shall examine the votes which have been classified as null and void and may affirm or correct the determination thereof at the polling stations and at the offices of District Commissioners but without prejudice to the right of appeal conferred under section 97.
82. Records of the national result of the electionThe Commission shall summarize its determination of the national result of an election in a written record indicating—
83. Publication of the national resultThe Commission shall publish in the Gazette and by radio broadcast and in at least one issue of a newspaper in general circulation in Malawi the national result of an election within eight days from the last polling day and not later than forty-eight hours from the conclusion of the determination thereof and shall, in such publication, specify—
Part IX – Observation
84. Meaning of observationFor the purposes of this Act, observation means the verification of the various stages of the election by international organizations, international and local non-governmental organizations, foreign governments and foreign and local personalities duly recognized for the purpose in accordance with this Part.
85. Scope of observationObservation shall consist of the following activities—(a)to verify and monitor the impartiality and the functioning of the Commission and its officers in conformity with this Act;(b)to verify and monitor the impartiality and legality of the decisions taken by the Commission and its officers in settling disputes;(c)to verify and monitor the registration of voters;(d)to observe the course of the campaigning for election;(e)to verify and monitor the voting process;(f)to verify and monitor the determination of the results of the election at all stages of determination;(g)to observe access to and the use of the media.
86. Beginning and end of observationObservation shall begin with the registration and end with the determination of the national result of the election or the settlement thereafter of all election disputes.
87. Collaboration by competent authoritiesIt shall be the duty of the Commission, every officer thereof and every competent public officer or other competent authority in Malawi to co-operate with observers in their role and to offer to them the guarantees and other facilities necessary to fulfil their role.
88. Invitation to observersThe Commission may send invitations for observation and may do so on its own initiative or on request by a candidate or by any government, organization or person competent under this Act to undertake observation.
89. Categories of observers
90. Recognition and identification of observersRecognition of observers on arrival in Malawi shall be granted by the Commission which, for that purpose, shall—
91. Compulsory use of identity cards and the common badgeEvery observer recognized under this Act shall, while exercising his functions, use the identity card and the badge issued to him.
92. Rights of observersObservers shall have the right—
93. Obligations of observers
94. Position of diplomatsDiplomats accredited to Malawi who are designated and recognized as observers under this Act shall exercise their functions as such observers without prejudice to their status and positions as such diplomats.
95. Separate and joint operation of observersObservers may operate separately or jointly with other observers of the same or different categories.
Part X – Complaints and appeals
96. Commission to decide on complaintsSave as otherwise provided in this Act, any complaint submitted in writing alleging any irregularity at any stage, if not satisfactorily resolved by the Chief Elections Officer or by the Returning Officer, shall be examined and decided on by the Commission and where the irregularity is confirmed the Commission shall take necessary action to correct the irregularity and the effects thereof.
97. Appeals to the High Court
Part XI – Offences and penalties
99. Maintenance of secrecy
100. Offences under this Act cognizable offencesEvery offence under this Act shall be a cognizable offence within the meaning of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code.[Cap. 8:01]
101. General penalty
Part XII – General
102. Preservation of election documentsAt the end of its functions, the Commission shall deposit all documents forming the official record of an election (including voters registers, ballot papers, records from council areas and polling stations and summaries thereof and the record and summary of the national result) with the Chief Elections Officer which shall retain and preserve such documents in safe and secure custody without destruction for a period of twelve months.
103. Failure to elect a councilorIf after the holding of an election no person has been elected in one or more wards, a session of the council may commence notwithstanding any such vacancy.
104. RegulationsThe Minister may make regulations for carrying into effect the provision of this Act and for matters necessary or required to be prescribed or specified under this Act.
History of this document
03 November 2020 this version
05 August 1996