Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) executive secretary Steve Duwa has said the low turnout of registrants in this year’s voter registration exercise is partly due to lack of funding to civil society organisations (CSOs) for civic and voter education.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) last week issued statistics from the first three phases which indicate that fewer people have registered so far compared to 2014 in the same areas.
In an interview on Monday, Duwa said 27 Mesn members have not received any funding from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which funded them during the 2009 elections.
He said: “It is a surprise to us that there is no funding for the exercise. It is not the function of MEC to give us the funds, government is supposed to advocate for this. It was clear that the donors said there are no funds this year, we went to UNDP which used to have a basket fund for this in 2009, but now they said they have no money, so this has affected us a lot that is why the turn up in the first days was not as expected.”
MEC accredited 108 CSOs for the voter and civic education this year but most do not have the funding to conduct the exercise.
National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust is the only organisation currently conducting civic education as they get funding from government.
Added Duwa: “Be mindful that Nice is not a CSO, it is aligned to the Ministry of Information and gets its funding from government. This year MEC accredited 108 CSOs o conduct the civic education, but without the funding how will they carry their work. Nice can’t reach out to all.”
In an interview, Nice Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju said his organisation, alongside MEC, has done a commendable job in sensitising the masses to the registration exercise.
He said while they have funding from government, it would have been better if the CSOs were given funds to beef up the exercise.
He said: “Nice, MEC, chiefs and churches have been making commendable efforts, this should be appreciated, and we would also have appreciated if CSOs were given funding as this would have strengthened voter education.”
MEC is empowered to exercise the general direction and supervision over the conduct of every election in Malawi. The Commission is also responsible to deliver credible elections as well as to take the necessary measures to ensure that they are free and fair and to promote public awareness of electoral matters through the media and other appropriate and effective means and to conduct civic and voter education.