Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale has expressed concern with the low turn-up of new registrants for the ongoing voter registration and verification exercise for the the November 10 by-elections.
Speaking when he inspected progress of the voter registration and verification exercise in registration centres of Mchacha, Bodza and Mitondo primary schools in Mankhwira South Ward, Chikwawa on Friday where it transpired that only few new registrants were being captured, the MEC chairperson feared the situation may lead to voter apathy.
He said: “On our part, we have ensured that we put everything else in place to ensure that people in the country register and verify their names to take part in the forthcoming by-elections.
“So far, we have not encountered any challenge. We can only urge people in the country to utilise this chance to choose a leader who shall be initiating development.”
Kachale said the low level of new registrants could be a result of many people in the country still not owning national identity cards (ID).
However, he could not state if the commission intends to place National Registration Bureau (NRB) staff in the registration centres to process national IDs for new registrants, saying the commission is reflecting on the matter.
According to Kachale, MEC experienced challenges during the June 23 Fresh Presidential Election when it processed national IDs for new registrants through the NRB staff placed at registration centres as some political parties questioned the eligibility of the registrants which necessitated the court to halt the process.
Kachale was, however, optimistic that more voters will register for the by-elections during the 14 days allocated for the voter registration and verification exercise.
On his part, Chikwawa district commissioner Ali Phiri urged people not to wait until the election for them to apply for national IDs, saying registration for IDs is continuous; hence, they can do that at their convenient time to prevent them from being disfranchised during elections.
MEC launched the by-elections exercise on September 5 to be held in four constituencies of Mangochi West, Mangochi North, Phalombe North, Lilongwe North West, Karonga Central and Makhwira South Ward.
The voter registration and verification exercise will run from the September 14 to 27.