The Ministry of Homeland Security and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have hit at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for instructing local authorities to have only one police officer per registration centre during the voter registration exercise for the July 2 fresh presidential election.
MEC issued a statement on March 29 signed by chief elections officer Sam Alfandika, advising all district commissioners and council chief executive officers to liaise with police officers in-charge for proper implementation of the arrangement.
Reads the communiqué in part: “I write to bring it to your attention that the commission has instructed that during voter registration exercise there shall be only one security officer per voter registration centre.”
Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi has since criticised the decision, saying MEC is not mandated to make lone decisions regarding security matters, while Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has faulted the electoral body for not consulting stakeholders on the issue.
In previous elections, the commission has been deploying at least two security officers for similar exercises, mostly a Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldier and a police officer or Malawi Prison Service officer.
Dausi said in an interview yesterday, his ministry will discuss with the electoral body and advise how best it can provide security during the voter registration exercise.
He said: “The people that are mandated by the Constitution on issues of security are the security institutions themselves and not Malawi Electoral Commission. MEC can only seek advice from the security institutions because we are the ones on the ground and we are going to determine what sought of deployment we are going to do.”
On his part, MCP publicity secretary Reverend Maurice Munthali faulted the commission for not consulting electoral stakeholders on the decision considering the current political tension in the country.
He said: “When we say people have lost trust in this commission because of its decisions, this is one of the reasons. They cannot undermine security breakdown in the country and think that there will be no danger during the exercise. Why is MEC putting Malawians at risk? Where there are more than two people, anything can happen and deploying one security officer is risky.”
According to two senior police officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, police procedures do not allow a police officer to work at a site alone.
Said one officer: “Security officers are always deployed in pairs. With the current political situation in the country, MEC is putting the security officers’ lives in danger by making them work alone.”
However, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview yesterday that the commission thought of reducing the number of security personnel because they expect reduced traffic in registration centres.
He said most voters already registered ahead of May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and the by-elections held thereafter.
Said Mwafulirwa: “Only those that have attained voting age or will turn 18 on June 7 or have never registered in the past will be the ones allowed to register.
“We are not doing voter verification during registration time, which means the 6.9 million voters do not need to go to the voter registration centres, unless they want to process transfers.”
Asked if MEC consulted electoral stakeholders such as political parties on deploying one security officer per registration centre, Mwafulirwa said it did not consult them because it was “an administrative action”.
MEC is expected to rollout the voter registration exercise on April 4 ahead of the July 2 fresh presidential election.
The fresh election the Constitutional Court on February 3 this year nullified the May 2019 presidential election and directed that a fresh election be held within 150 days.
The court said MEC failed in all tests it set out on the elections and that the irregularities were so glaring that the credibility of the election was in question.