Voter apathy point to loss of trust in Malawi Electoral Commission

Indeed, it would not be an understatement to suggest that Malawians are wary of the manner in which elections are administered by the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec). The recent unprecedented low turn-out, or voter apathy, during the Ward Councillors By-elections in Karonga, Mzuzu, Mangochi and Thyolo speaks volumes about the fresh memories Malawians have about the shambolic manner in which the May 20, 2014 Tripartite Elections were conducted.

Justice Mbendera :  There should be a research on the phenomenon of voter apathy

Justice Mbendera : There should be a research on the phenomenon of voter apathy

Writing in the OPED section of The Sunday Times of August 30, 2015, former State House Press Officer, Tusekele Mwanyongo argues that for the past 20 years that Malawi has been a multiparty democracy, there has been very little to celebrate about in as far as the conduct of elections is concerned.

“Save for the first multiparty elections in 1994, the rest, after every five years, have left a lot to be desired in terms of administration. Electoral disputes arising from suspected electoral irregularities, violence and sheer confusion have characterized the previous national polls. Lives have been lost in the process,” writes Mwanyongo.

He claims that the May 20, 2014 Tripartite Elections are the ‘worst case scenario’ and that many people had expected problems anyway as it was the first time Malawians were voting three times—for the President, MP and Ward Councillor.

“Prior to the elections, one analyst had noted that being the first time that the Mec were to conduct Tripartite Elections, many problems were to come from the handling of large volume of candidates, which would culminate in numerous complaints. It was never to be,” he writes.

According to Mwanyongo, who worked under former President Joyce Banda, most of the problems of the May 20, 2014 polls were administrative in nature, from registration, actual polling and the release of the results.

He observes that in many polling centres, there were no voting materials until very late in the morning of the polling day. This sparked violence in some areas in Blantyre where property was destroyed. In some instances, ballot boxes had seals without serial numbers.

“How does one ensure the integrity of the vote under those circumstances? There was very little indelible ink, which meant that after some time either voting was going to either be suspended or continue without evidence of voting. Many voters’ names were missing from voters roll.

“Now, Malawians learnt with shock that Mec spent a whopping MK400 million on civic education and sensitization exercises to lure voters ahead of the by-elections, which were conducted last week in Khwawa Ward in Karonga, Luchenza Ward in Thyolo, Zomba Central Ward, Mzuzu’s Chibanja Ward and Mangochi’s Msikisi Ward.

“It appears the millions of Kwacha allocated to voter education went to waste, and whatever voter education that was conducted fell on a hard rock as the elections were characterized by acute voter apathy. People simply decided to have nothing to do with the by-elections. Out of 28,000 registered voters, only a very small percentage cast their ballot. In one ward, the total ballots cast ware not more than 300,” he says.

He claims that such terrible voter apathy symbolizes serious discontent among voters over the circumstances surrounding the conduct and administration of elections. It is a telling indicator of a much larger malaise in our electoral systems. The by-elections must not be looked at as a single incident, but a running story from last year’s tripartite polls, he writes.

He says that various May 2014 post-election postmortem have generally concluded that the elections were neither fair nor credible due to flaws in the voter’s roll, poor management of the voting process and announcement of results.

“The common aspect that has emerged from these post-election analyses and meetings is the need for electoral reforms. This was also the recommendation of the May 2014 elections observer missions such as the European Union, the African Union, the Electoral Commission Forum for SADC countries, and the Commonwealth,” Mwanyongo writes.

He opines managing elections is not just an outreach affair; it is a national exercise that ought to be holistic.

“Malawians have completely lost trust in Mec capacity to run elections. The recent voter-apathy is a sure verdict on Mec and stand as a tale-tale exhibition of the people’s discontent. As the old saying goes, ‘we cannot expect different results when we are doing the same things’.

“Stakeholders have recommended the implementation of electoral reforms over the past years. As a nation, we cannot just cast aside that voice. Now, the people themselves have stayed away. They have spoken as well and a ‘reform-driven’ government must listen.

“The civil society and our cooperating partners must help our government to implement the necessary reformsin the country’s electoral processes and systems, including enhancing the independence and technical capacity of Mec as soon as possible based on the past lessons,” concludes Mwanyongo.

Political analyst at University of Malawi Boniface Dulani  attributed the voter apathy to lack of trust by voters and failure by the country’s political parties and MEC to make people recognise the importance of voting.

Dulani said voters see nothing enthusiastic to make them vote.

He quashed suggestions that the country should enact a law that would make voting compulsory.

“There are countries such as Singapore where voting is compulsory but they still don’t get a 100 percent voter turn out. Voting is a right and I don’t see any reason in forcing people to take part,” Dulani said.

MEC chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera also noted about voter apathy.

“The phenomenon of low voter turnout or voter apathy is very worrisome. The Commission left no stone unturned in ensuring that voters in the five wards were reached with voter information messages. This is not encouraging if compared to the turnout during the Tripartite Elections which was 70.7 percent,” he said.

Mbendera called on institutions of higher learning in the country to conduct a research on the causes of voter apathy.

Melia Likoswe Douglas of the DPP won the Central Ward, Bydon Katambika Msiska of the DPP won the Khwawa Ward, Henderson Alex Spoon of DPP won the Luchenza Ward while Charles Mlogera of MCP won the Chibanja Ward and Oliver Tayub of UDF the Msikisi Ward.

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39 thoughts on “Voter apathy point to loss of trust in Malawi Electoral Commission”

  1. Alungwana says:

    Is there anybody who trust the weeping Mbendera and his Mec?

  2. ngongoliwa says:

    Dont be worried over a mare war councilor not even a constituency let alone a country. So no need of research.

  3. RayAnne says:

    This idea of analysing things as a little island called Malawi is just myopic. Low voter turn out in local govt by elections is VERY NORMAL everywhere in the world! do get over yourself!

  4. food for thought says:

    Some of you individuals here are the most illogical individuals I have ever had the displeasure of having to read’s comments.

    It is not a certain conclusion that voter apathy is as a result of the MEC, because if people knew that it was a done deal that the ruling party would win, do you not believe that there would then be scores of DPP supporters flooding the polling centers, at the very least??? I believe that the data collected in terms of the numbers that actually voted and the distribution of votes needs to be analysed, because even the vote distribution published by this very site does not suggest that there is a distrust because the numbers that absconded from actually voting were not only belonging to the opposition parties.

    I am inclined to believe that the reality is that the roles played by various individuals within the elected positions are considered either redundant, unimportant or the role played by those in certain positions generally neither defined or understood by and large. I might also postulate that a look at the results of the tripartite election might show a general pattern of voting for people in positions other than the president, based on who the voter selected as a president. i.e if the presidential candidate who was voted for was from MCP, then at least half the time, the MP selected for example, would also be the MCP candidate, and this pattern would go on all the way through to the position of the Councillor.

    Malawians and our system is such that the roles played by some elected officials have no actual outlined responsibilities and limits of power. Therefore we find ourselves having MP’s for example who are dealing with issues which should not actually be in their control. There is a need to do thorough research to find out various aspects of the electorate and the process of elections itself before hastily making leaps and bounds about why voter apathy occurred….we might just realize that there were different aspects which led to voter apathy.

  5. Mapiri says:

    No need for research. The answers are obvious. Why waste money!

  6. becks says:

    Opposition parties what are you doing to get rid of Mbendera and fellow MEC commissioners.

  7. mtumbuka1 says:

    Some dpp idiots are saying there was voter apathy because people does not see the importance of councillors, that is utter nonsense why did they register in the first place? They register to vote but when the time to vote comes they know that the results are a foregone conclusion as long as stupid mbendera and his dpp team are calling the shots at the electoral commission! So dpp sympathisers just zip it up since according to you mbendera and mutharika will live for fucking ever.

  8. G.Phiri says:

    This reminds me of what happened last time when we had elections for councillors only in 2000. People of Malawi do not see the use of councillors hence the poor turnout. No need to blame MEC. The writer of this story seems to have a negative altitude towards MEC and especially the current one because it did not listen to his mistress. This is total rubbish. The fact is that people do not need councillors.

  9. True Malawian says:

    If it were a general election, iam sure Malawians would have turnedout in their large numbers.People donot see why they should waste their time electing a councillor while chiefs are capable of carrying out the duties of a councilor quite well.All those who are blaming MEC for voter apathy have missed the point.

  10. hzayakunkhongo says:

    Voter apathy is because election results in most cases are not peoples’ choices i.e elections are rigged, so people are frustrated and they don’t see any reasons of wasting time voting?

  11. machonisa says:

    Mbendera ni mfwiti

  12. The Patriot says:

    Vehemently agree!

  13. Nthumbetupe says:

    MEC is an organization that epitomizes Malawi’s inclination to mediocrity. How on earth would Mbendera and Kalonga still be holding positions at MEC. It can only happen in Malawi where people are given important jobs on account of tribe not capabilities. The consequences of such mediocrity are there for to see – voter apathy, cashgate, usel

  14. Greencardless Malawian says:

    Please dont remind mevof 2014 elections, most importantly dont remind me of Mbendera…he is like the devil to me

  15. .... says:

    Vuto ndi Mbendera

  16. Masharubu says:

    If Mbendera has relatives who love him, let them convince him to voluntarily step down from the position of MEC Chair . If a list of 5 most disliked Malawians were to be drawn out after a national poll, this man would surely clinch the first position .

  17. Chisomo Konyani says:

    The responsibility of MEC is to organize tge elections . It is the duty of every Malawian to vote . If somebody doesn’t want to vote , MEC has no reason to worry

  18. mtumbuka1 says:

    It’s unbelievable that opposition parties allow this man they call mbendera to still keep his job at the electoral commission. He screwed the opposition black and white in the previous elections but today he is still keeping his job waiting to screw the opposition in the coming elections in 2019 and it will still be business as usual and peter gandanga mutharika will still be ruling Malawi with his stolen votes . The opposition must treaten to boycott elections if this mbendera guy and all his friends at the electoral commission won’t be sucked. The whole of the commission is Dpp and Malawian opposition parties dreams of winning an election in 2019 but I can guarantee you that will never happen since the whole fucking country allowed peter to get away with it and he knows the kind of people Malawians are. Wherever peter gandanga mutharika is, he is saying that he has never seen stupid people like Malawians. This is the reason some of us left that useless country, in fact the whole Africa sucks if it’s not the mugabes(the dictators who wants to die presidents) then it’s the cashgate mutharikas. Thank God I’m no longer part of that bullshit.

  19. Chigawaneni says:

    Recommendations have been made about the voting system, nothing is being done. Someone is talking about carrying out a research. Is there any sense there? Can’t someone feel ashamed that they are part of this mess. Better keep quiet than say trush. You think you are more intelligent than all Malawians. You can fool us but NOT God.

  20. manoma says:

    vuto ndinu ambendera munagulitsa kale dzikoli kwa ma pro.lero muziti anthu sakuvota pomwe ndalama munadya kale mukutanthauza chani? anthufetu amatimenyera nkhondo ndi ambuye moti muzingoyembekeza chikwapu chake pamodzi ndi anzanuwo!!!

  21. koma says:

    galu mbendela we are in this mess boz of your greedy uzafa imfa yowawa mdala iwe….

  22. JC says:

    God is watching alipo yemwe anaphedwako ku MEC? No one why they do what DPP gurus want, see ACB pipo are being eleminated how can one trust the Mbenderas Mwafuliras onse awa anapatsidwa mamillion palibe chilungamo angachite kuothya MEC ku Lilongwe DPP ingawine ku LL ngati MCP singawine ku Thyolo, zadziko lapansi nzotsala olo muzikundikere chuma muzazisiya, mavuto ndiyawa alimbweee zakulakani akuba inu

  23. hisbolla says:

    VUTO NDI MBENDERA CRYING AT 9T B4 ANNOUNCING RESULTS. HE’S A BIG SHAME

  24. zansete says:

    Foolish Mbendela and kenyata,shdding crocodile tears. Malawi is in mess bcoz of You , your DPP n Mathanyula. Thieves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Professor Bakili Muluzi says:

    Mbendera know this; what you together with Nyirenda did to malawians is what is responsible for voter apathy. In short its the two of you who voted this useless govt into power coz ending your lowest levels of poverty was more important than the highest levels of abject poverty of Malawians. SHAME ON YOU

  26. cole j says:

    Reform the whole MEC where men and women of intergity can facilitate credible elections. Trust has to be earned or resources will be wasted at all times.

  27. Malawians wake up. There is need to change the electral law. the current set up favours the ruling party, and MBC doen’t help matters either in the way it handles it’self during elections. MBC always behaves like the the ruling party’s mouth peace. After the results of the recent by elections officials from DPP and UDF were interviewed leaving out MCP as if MCP did not win any seat. MBC is a shame to Malawians.

  28. Sapitwa says:

    Tusekele Mwanyongo and his boss JB are to blame for the 2014 Tripartite General Elections abnormalities. This was a big one and good measures were supposed to be put in place to ensure the smooth run of the process.
    It is therefore laughable and childish to hear from the same person who was part of the Government blaming the MEC instead of admitting that his Government and his duck lame President failed the people. What a stupid fool of the fools!

  29. Muphwisa says:

    phenominal my ass, upyours Mbendera.

  30. yakobo says:

    Kumeneko ndi kulila kwa a Namalila.A mfumu ndi nthawi yanu

  31. mbuli ya ku south and central says:

    Mbendera and friends at MEC need to go. These fools are in the pocket of dpp and we all know it. We need proper people who know what they are doing and strong enough to handle the jobs , not kumangolila zikadvuta ayi.

  32. Commissioner of Truths says:

    Uyu Mbendera ndi wopepela amalila on national television chibambo cha zidzukulu ngati ichi.

    Kupepela!!!

  33. drzeus says:

    The sooner MEC’s CEO, its Chairman and Commissioners r removed, this voter apathy will continue.

  34. Duncan Gama says:

    There is need to appoint independent people

  35. Duncan Gama says:

    There is to appoint independent people

  36. ALEX DZONZI says:

    it is not a phenomenon for voter apathy. it is a fact that people are not interested with the current chair of electoral commission. His cry on the past presidential and parliamentary elections leaves a lot to be desired.

    people can cast their votes if and only if they are sure that the results will be credible and free. Let the president desolve it and chose a new one for the good of Malawians who love their country

  37. not myname says:

    PLS. MPS TRIY TO FIND BETTER MECHANISM.IN ELECTORAL PROCESS TO AVOID SILLY ROBBERY OF SOME CRUELY POLITICIANS

  38. Joseph says:

    Are you really serious that even Mbendera
    stands on the podium claiming he does not understand why people are shuning voting and why they dont trust the electoral process despite the civic education given? Like, you are seriously wondering why?
    Un-fu$&@ing believable! Here is why, as long as people like Mbendera are still running and DPPing the electoral results, nothing good will come out of all elections. You will fabricate the results anyway so why do you need people to vote? But everybody already knows that, there is just no one with balls to point it out to him…..

  39. General Nkhuku says:

    I contend that the voter apathy has more to do with loss of trust in political leadership.

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