The Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) has embraced the Malawi Electoral Commissions (MEC) Civic and Voter Education Strategy for the 2019 Tripartite Elections, saying it will help the country’s political parties to also shape their own approach.
The strategy which MEC has validated is aimed at directing electoral stakeholders to ensure correct and adequate information and effective coordination for civic and voter education activities ahead of the forth coming elections on May 24 next year.
CMD chairperson and United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo said yesterday that parties have a role to ensure that voters are well civic educated before they cast the ballot hence the need for political parties to adopt the strategy.
He said the strategy will help parties rectify some of the anomalies they encountered in the civic education process of the electorate for the past years where leaders from political parties could misinform voters for the benefit of their parties.
Padambo said: “The new strategy of civic and voter education will help us work on the weaknesses we had in 2014 elections so that we prepare well for the 2019 general elections to reduce null and void votes and voter apathy.”
He said CMD, a grouping of registered political parties in the country, will be lobbying for civilised politics and zero tolerance for violence for an issues based campaign unlike the past elections.
In the recent by-elections, which took place in Mulanje and Mangochi, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) complained of violence reportedly perpetrated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters.
The Milonde Ward scenario is just one of the examples of political intolerance which Padambo said parties should refrain from as Malawians are preparing for the tripartite elections next year.
“If political parties can take advantage of their rallies and inform their followers well we will reach more people than ever and if we can do that we are going to improve the electoral process, confidence and trust which is important in the multiparty dispensation,” Padambo noted.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the strategy has some initiatives embedded into it which will help stakeholders pull a larger amount of cloud in the civic education initiatives.
She said the strategy was developed on evidence-based research, in-depth desk review and the 2014 campaign review.
Ansah said: “As MEC we did not engage thoroughly the electorate in our past activities. This time we are introducing other initiatives like football bonanza in the strategy which is so significant because it is to reach all the electorate that they should know their rights, responsibilities and the voting process so that people should know how to do the process properly to avoid null and void votes.”
Although the responsibility of civic and voter education is the responsibility of MEC, she said the commission included other stakeholders like CSOs and political parties to assist have free, fair and credible elections.
So far only five of 11 Lilongwe based civil society organisations (CSOs) namely National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice), Governance Gender, Justice and Development; Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP); Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education (Cyece) and Circle for Integrated Community Development have confirmed to MEC that they are ready to begin civic educating the electorate.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chief technical adviser Richard Cox told The Nation in an interview that his organisation, which is a key stakeholder to the country’s development and elections, noted MEC has developed a strong interest in improving the electoral process to reduce null and void votes.
He said there has been a significant achievement in the reduction of null and void votes as well as voter apathy, a development which he hopes will be sustained in the upcoming general elections.
“As UNDP we only play an advisory role and we do not make decisions for MEC. MEC has shown real will to learn from the past elections and we would say that the commission is strong on planning for the next elections and we hope things will be done differently”, Cox said.
According to the UNDP official, the 2009 general elections which President Bingu wa Mutharika, won registered a nine percent null and void votes while the 2014 general elections registered a one percent of null and void votes.
Other notable achievements in the 2014 general elections included a registration of 70 percent voter turnout which according to Cox made a significant difference from that of 2014.