Steps towards 2019 Malawi elections: Voter fatigue and voter apathy

With the US elections slated for November 8 this year, a recent survey has shown that 59 percent of the US electorate are already tired and worn out “by the much coverage of the campaign and elections”.

Mutharika being protected from a swarm of bees during voting day  May 2014

President Peter Mutharika being protected from a swarm of bees during voting day May 2014

A new Pew Research Center survey conducted June 7-July 5 found out that about six-in-ten Americans (59%) feel exhausted by the amount of election coverage, while 39% said they liked getting a lot of coverage about the election. This feeling of fatigue is particularly true among those who aren’t following news about the election very closely – 69% of this group said they are worn out compared with about 41% of those who followed the election very closely.

Voter fatigue is the apathy that the electorate can experience under certain circumstances, one of which could be that they are required to vote too often. Voter Apathy is a lack of caring among voters in an election. Voters decide that they don’t care who wins or loses. Studies have shown that voter fatigue and voter apathy greatly contribute to low turnout during polling.

The situation in the US in not isolated. It was reported in January that the EU Referendum, dubbed Brexit, date had to be delayed to June this year because of mayoral election in Britain.

Downing Street was worried a low turnout would have favoured greatly the campaign to leave the European Union because “antis” were thought to be more highly motivated.

Apart from voting frequently, voter fatigue is also blamed on lack of interest in the candidates that are running by the electorate, distrust in how elections are being run and voters believing that their vote is worthless especially in systems whereby votes do not have same power.

In the US scenario it is hard to blame the electorate. The 2016 Road to White House campaign seemed to have dragged for months. The primary process takes months. This has been blamed as a cause of voter fatigue as the electorate have to vote twice; in primary and during the general election (the popular vote). The US holds elections every four years and campaigns begins almost immediately after tallying of results.

Now scholars are advocating for reforms towards simplifying the process. Instead of going to states for primary elections, scholars are advocating for a national wide primary election. This will shorten the period the electorate are exposed to campaign messages.

To prevent voter fatigue and voter apathy, political parties and the electoral management body have to keep the voters motivated. The EMB should teach people the importance of their active participation in election. Democracy is a government of the people by the people for the people. If the people don’t participate then they are defeating democracy. The electoral body and all stakeholders must still convince the people about the relevance of government to their lives. When civic pride and passion prevail in a society, citizens will go through hell or high water to vote.

The EMB should also embrace new technologies that make it easier to register and simple and accessible, even if it means from the convenience of the home or office, to vote.

Candidates should also ensure that they deliver on their promises once ushered into office. Often the electorate have felt no need to go for vote when whoever wins will not implement or pursue policies that will result in significant advancement in their daily life. The CSOs must help to foster civic engagement between the electorate and the elected. Communities where civic engagement is high, voting is also high. Voting is one small part of civic engagement, which is a far better tool for understanding the relative health of a democracy.

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3 thoughts on “Steps towards 2019 Malawi elections: Voter fatigue and voter apathy”

  1. Winston Msowoya says:

    What an interesting movie we are seeing here? So the two poor and idiotic citizens offered to protect their unappreciative President from being attacked by a swarm of bees during the voting day in May 2014.Really,this demonstrates the stupidity and lack of self respect our people have when it comes to win favours from their mindless leaders.Bees sting like bullets from an AK Rifle which you can not stop from destroying the targets.It is a fact that Malawians are still a sleeping lot that is why anybody can easily rule us KEEP ON SLEEPING GUYS,but 2019 elections,would be decisive and heart breaking for Muthalika and his corrupt and tribalistic DPP.

  2. Mwananyanian says:

    How come the writer didn’t attach her/his name to this?
    Is it because the concepts here are but ONLY remotely related to the Malawi scenario? And she/he is ashamed of the lack of relevance to us?
    My oh, oh my. The US election system is complex, and I am not sure if the average Malawian is interested at all. Even though Malawians and the Americans and the British succumb to the same instincts (we are all human after all), we are closer, way closer, to the existential or survival themes: like “where is my next meal coming from, if at all”. We have no social net (welfare) anywhere. So, we worry about the most basics in the survival kit, etc. Evidence: the short life expectancy; and most of us in the village do NOT want to live past sixty. By then, the body is physically broken down, and the brain chemistry is compromised from years of stress and malnutrition.
    It is good our Election Commission is involved in this kind of research. But please make it relevant.
    For example, is there evidence of voter fatigue in our neighbors, or anywhere in Sub-Sahara? It would not be very difficult to find the evidence, or lack thereof, for it even right here in Malawi.
    Maybe, factors such as cultural (read tribal) affiliations buffer most Malawians against apathy when it comes to voting. On the other hand, if for many people, the main reason they do NOT vote is simply “”survival” – doing something simply to feed the family; can’t vote on an empty stomach – is that really “apathy”?
    Researchers need to dig deeper into these aspects of political engagement. Not just just handling the low hanging fruit – easy job; for the lazy ….

  3. dzikondianthu says:

    chithunzichi ndi nkhaniyi zikugwirizana ngati? chipongwe basi. Chonchi akawinanso 2019 muziti anabera?

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