The on-going Voters roll inspection exercise, currently in second phase, has been marred by low turn-out with Malawi Elections Support Network (Mesn) taking to task Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) for failing to create much awareness for prospective voters to verify their information.
The electoral body is compiling a voters list that will be used for the presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for May 20. The commission suspended an initial phase of the voter compilation phase after encountering logistical challenges and resumed the inspection exercise on April 9 .
However, in most centres with over 1,000 registered voters, less than 100 people are able to verify their names in the voters roll which is still characterised by some irregularities such as missing names, wrong dates of births, misspellings as well as unclear pictures.
Mec Media and Public Relations Manager, Sangwani Mwafulirwa while dismissing the lack of awareness, attributed the low turnout to a number of factors such as most people’s reluctance to participate in the exercise.
“I don’t know what kind of publicity or awareness do people expect Mec to conduct because we have taken every initiative to ensure the general public is informed about the exercise. We are on radio, television, newspapers as well as creating awareness in the communities,” Mwafulirwa explained to Nyasa Times.
But Mesn Executive Director, Steve Duwa blamed Mec of confusing voters due to change of program and failure to create much publicity to influence people to partake in the exercise.
“People are not much informed about the exercise. And the way the exercise was started its confusing. Surprisingly, Mec is not even coming forth to clear out the challenges facing the exercise,” Duwa bemoaned.
Duwa said they have meanwhile raised the concerns with the Commission and that will soon release a statement highlighting more on the issues surrounding the voters roll inspection campaign.
“There are several interventions we are undertaking to ensure people are well informed and participate in the exercise. We a mobile verification platform through which registered voters can now send a free SMS to a designated short-code and instantly receive details of where they are registered to vote”.
This year’s voters roll inspections exercise has been marred with a lot of irregularities with Singani Centre in Chikhwawa district becoming the main highlight with 321 names missing from the Voters Roll.
MEC says the information verification process forms part of the electoral commission’s mandate as it prepares to administer Malawi’s first tripartite vote.
Some political parties have expressed concern that the electoral commission appears ill prepared to organize the general election. They cited the logistical problem that forced the suspension of the voter list compilation as an example of the commission’s failure to effectively plan its activities in the run up to the election.
But, Mwafulirwa says the electoral commission is confident that it will produce a credible voters list to be used for the vote.
Some critics proposed that the election should be postponed after accusing the electoral commission of incompetence.
But Mwafulirwa disagrees, saying “We are not postponing the elections. The issue at hand with the voters roll is manageable and what people should know is that there are several activities to do with the elections which are not dependent on the voters roll and those are proceeding [and] the only thing that comes after the voters roll is the printing of the ballot papers,” he said.
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