Malawi Congress Party (MCP) wants Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to suspend the first phase of voter registration in Dedza, Kasungu and Salima due to technical hiccups and lack of mass sensitisation.
MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali said in a statement yesterday the opposition party is not satisfied with the manner the voter registration exercise is being conducted.
He said: “We have noted with great concern that there is low turn-out of people coming to register in almost all the centres in the three districts of Kasungu, Dedza and Salima due to inadequate sensitisation by MEC and institutions accredited to conduct voter and civic education across the country among other reasons.”
MEC commissioner Moffat Banda yesterday refused to comment on the issue because the opposition party is yet to lodge an official complaint.
Munthali said MEC did not do enough sensitisation for people ahead of the registration exercise.
He said the party feels MEC is not capable of handling the whole registration exercise because of persistent breakdown of registration equipment, lack or late delivery of fuel for generator sets, weak solar panels and inadequate registration materials, among other reasons.
On Wednesday this week, Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa also acknowledged the low turnout in all centres in the three districts under the first phase of the registration.
He attributed the poor turnout to lack of civic education and funding delays to accredited civil society organisations (CSOs).
The affected districts lie in the Central Region, which is widely regarded as an MCP stronghold based on the number of legislators and ward councillors in past elections.
Besides technical hitches, Munthali—who said he visited some of the centres in Kasungu yesterday—said there was also confusion among eligible voters because of an overlap of the registration process with other programmes, notably the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and the pending Population and Housing Census.
He said: “Some people also think that the registration for national identity cards suffices for the voting as well. Some of those who are eligible to vote in the national polls are unable to register now because they are still in school and others are sitting examinations.
“All these factors raise more questions than answers as to whether MEC is really ready to handle the electoral process credibly and professionally, otherwise the entire exercise is a total mess.”
But Banda, in his comment on the issues MCP raised through the media, said his team visited centres in Salima where it observed overwhelming response to the registration process.
He said: “Yesterday we were in Salima where we found that voter registration turnout was very encouraging, unless if we have a concrete complaint from individual party. We found that the maximum number of people registering per day is 170.”
But one of the MEC officials supervising the process in Kasungu confided that turnout was low.
The Nation established that in Kasungu 80 people registered on the first day at a centre in Kasungu North Constituency, but nobody was registered at the centre on the second day because of the malfunctioning registration equipment.
At the same centre, records showed that 130 registered on the fourth day and thereafter the number kept dwindling in the range of 46 to 58 registrants per day.
Dedza East legislator Juliana Lungu (MCP) tweeted that she was dismayed by the number of people registering in her constituency.
Her tweet showed that 359 people registered on June 26, but the figure began dropping from between 126 the following day to 37 people registering per day. She said on her tweet “this needs a quick action”.
When contacted for their reactions, People’s Party (PP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) observed that people have the right to vote, but they could not be drawn into commenting on whether MEC should suspend the registration exercise.
PP spokesperson Noah Chimpeni said in a telephone interview that just like any other political party, MCP has a role to play in sensitising masses so that they know the importance of registration in readiness for the forthcoming tripartite elections.
DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi shared similar sentiments that every eligible Malawian has the right to vote; hence, the need to give everybody the chance to register.
During an interface meeting with MEC, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota feared the 2019 Tripartite Elections would be marred by voter apathy and violence.