Millions of Malawians are voting in a tense election which has seen the electorate disenfranchised in most polling centres soon after the polls were opened at 6am and the opposition complained about voting irregularities.
In the commercial capital Blantyre voters held a demonstration protesting that at CI voting could not open because there were no materials such as IDs for monitors, ink, pens and seals.
In Limbe, the ballot boxes bad not arrived but polling staff were forced to open voting using make-shift plastic boxes and would transfer the votes to ballot boxes when they arrive.
In the central region district of Dedza, voting in some centres also delayed because ballot papers were yet to arrive and there were long queues.
In the northern district of Mzimba, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) postponed elections for Councillors due to stray ballot papers.
According to polling staff, ballot papers meant for Mbalachanda in Mzimba have been found in Mchesi in Lilongwe while Mbalachanda has ballot papers from Ntcheu and other districts.
In the eastern district of Machinga, voting was delayed at Nainunje Polling Centre where UDF presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi is expected to cast his vote.
According to the centre’s presiding officer Alfred Kasondo they received boxes for three streams instead of five.
One commentator Stanley Onjezani Kanani took it on social media on the problems: “It seems the Malawi Electoral Commission is overwhelmed by today’s process. Reports proliferating about signs of MEC’s extreme unpreparedness, including lack of ballot boxes, ballot papers, and in some cases even the officials supposed to oversee the casting are absent in certain polling stations. Is it genuine incompetence or calculated mischief aimed at disenfranchising voters? Either way, this is not acceptable.”
About 7.5 million Malawians were registered to vote in Tuesday’s polls for president, parliament, and councillors.
Incumbent President Joyce Banda is one of only three female African heads of state. Her main rivals are Prof Peter Mutharika whose brother died in office 2 years ago, Dr Lazarus Chakwera, a preacher-turned- politician and Atupele Muluzi, 35 year old MP and son of former President Bakili Muluzi. There are 12 presidential candidates. The candidate with the most votes will be declared winner.
People are queuing with enthusiasm and determination.
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