In 2014, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) registered 7.4 million voters and only 5.2 million cast their vote. A whopping 2.2 million voters had reasons not to vote.
The 70 percent turnout in 2014 does not seem like a crisis but going by the low turnout in voter registration this year, the situation might just be worse in 2019.
In this voter registration, Mec registered only those that will have turned 18 years old on the date of registration, November 9, 2018, unlike in the past when the commission registered people who would turn 18 on polling day.
But when MEC embarked on this registration exercise, they factored this change into their projections but still, it has only registered 81 percent of the target.
This development is by all means a crisis, not only for MEC but for political parties.
The political parties should be panicking that with each election, fewer people are interested to cast their ballots. It should be a moment of soul searching.
Voters are no longer interested in blueprints that gather dust for four years only for the political parties to launch another manifesto that will not be carried out once they go into power.
It is disheartening that the best that political leaders have to offer is a clueless party president who doesn’t know a K145 milllion bribe when he sees one and receives vehicles from a shady businessman with no qualms whatsoever.
Sadly, the best that political leaders have to offer is an opposition leader who when offered to dip his hands in a K4 billion kitty, forgets his morals very quickly.
Malawi Congress Party or Democratic Progressive Party should not base their chances of winning based on the number of people registered in the regions where they are most popular. That would be naïve.
The Malawian voter is smarter and will most likely not vote according to regional or tribal lines.
But then again, if the best politicians Malawi has to offer voters to are Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera, you know there is a problem that even the rural voter is smart enough to see.
Of course, MEC should also share the blame for the growing apathy to elections. The mess that was 2014 and the belief by many that we have in place an illegitimate leader could be attributed to the low number of people registered ahead of May 21.
It was last year that pan-African research institution Afrobarometer established that fewer and fewer Malawians were interested in voting because they are dissatisfied with elections and politics in general and no one can blame them.
People feel that voting makes no difference in their lives and coupled with the belief that elections are not free and fair, 2014 and murmurs of rigging come to mind.
Afrobarometer findings indicated that the proportion of citizens who believe elections are the best way of choosing political leaders dropped from 78 percent in 2008 to 57 percent in 2017.
But have our political parties made use of such survey findings? I highly doubt it, especially if the best that MCP could do when there was low turnout in registration in the Central Region was to demand that MEC reopens registration in those districts.
Politicians should not look at the 6 856 295 Malawians who lined up to register these past months as people to play with and discard once MEC announces results. They chose to exercise their right to elect a leader and that choice should be respected. If not, the number of people willing to vote in 2024 will be reduced further.
The 3.7 million plus youths that have registered certainly deserve better than the current crop of politicians.