Data provided by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) shows that 73 out of every 100 eligible voters registered in the first phase of the voter registration exercise in Dedza, Kasungu and Salima districts.
But MEC says it is yet to conclusively analyse the factors that could have caused the low turnout.
The electoral body told a National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting in Lilongwe yesterday that it had projected to register about one million people during the first phase of registration, but only 798 351—out of which 438 135 are females—registered.
The actual registration figures represent about 89 percent of those registered during the 2014 exercise in the three districts covered in phase one.
This time, MEC adopted the constitutional provision which states that eligible people for registration are those that will have turned 18 on the date of registration, in this case by December 10 2018. In past elections, the commission registered people who would turn 18 on polling day; hence, the projected figure to be registered should have been higher.
Briefing the Necof meeting, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah partly attributed the registration figures to the adoption of the constitutional provision.
She said: “The final perceived low registration figures cannot, therefore, be attributed to inadequate civic and voter education per se. Actually, [people in] most places we visited indicated that they were aware that voter registration was ongoing, but did not want to register due to their own reasons some of which are political.”
Figures from the first phase indicate that in Kasungu District, MEC projected that 476 875 people would register, but the turnout was 325 301, representing 68 percent against the projection and 86 percent compared to the 2014 total registered voters of 375 427.
Kasungu also experienced an uncharacteristically low number of female registrants at 167 267 females against 158 034 males, according to the figures.
In Salima, MEC registered 170 427 against a projection of 224 344. In 2014, the number of registered voters was 183 874.
Out of the registered voters in Salima, 96 423 were female while 73 944 were male.
In Dedza, the figures show that there were 302 623 registered voters, of which 174 385 were female against a projection of 393 049 and 333 082 registered voters in 2014.
But Ansah’s assertions that reasons for low registration turnout were political irked representatives of political parties present at the Necof meeting with United Democratic Front (UDF) urging MEC not to speculate and blame political parties, but make a conclusive analysis.
UDF publicity secretary Ken Ndanga said it was unfair for MEC to push the shortfalls in the voter registration exercise to political parties.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) pressed MEC to consider reopening the registration exercise in the first phase districts where thousands of people failed to register.
“To say that MEC effectively and efficiently executed the voter registration exercise in the first phase is being unfair. We would urge MEC to reconsider and commit to reopening voter registration in these areas,” said MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka.
National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust was one of the organisations that carried out civic and voter education and conducted a survey which established that the low turnout resulted from frustrations among the electorate with the performance of elected leaders.
Phase two of the registration exercise started on Friday in Mchinji, Dowa, Ntchisi and Nkhotakota and so far the turnout seems promising.