Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says it is positive that phase three of voter registration will proceed smoothly devoid of the challenges encountered in the first and second phases.
In an interview yesterday when the registration exercise moved to Lilongwe District, where about one million voters are expected to register, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the electoral body expects more people to register because Lilongwe is the only district covered in phase three.
She said: “The challenges that have been there generally are technical in nature. They are to do with generator sets and solar panels because of weather. Where solar panels are not charging, we have generators; and, where generators break down, we have technicians who are immediately deployed to attend to the challenge.
“At the moment, people have been deployed to all centres. There is no centre that is not operational. People should appreciate the fact that it takes only half a minute to register a voter. So, even if Lilongwe is big, we will not have any problem.”
Yesterday, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) urged MEC to engage the public throughout phase three of the voter registration exercise currently underway in Lilongwe urban and rural.
During spot-checks at various registration centres, including Lilongwe Town Hall, district council offices, Chinsapo Primary School and Likuni Girls Primary School, The Nation observed that people were registering for national identity (ID) cards through the National Registration Bureau (NRB) first before registering with MEC.
However, some political party monitors said the process was delaying registration.
But Ansah, who is a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said the commission does not see the arrangement of registering for national IDs first posing challenges because during the previous phases, many voters followed the same route.
She said: “Where we are coming from we had some places where there were more people registering for the first time with NRB first and it did not take too long. NRB did mass registration. So, the numbers that were left out are not large and we did not have any challenges with NRB registration.”
By noon yesterday, The Nation established that over 100 people had already registered at the Lilongwe Town Hall centre while the district council office centre had registered over 300 people and Chinsapo and Likuni over 100 each.
In the second phase, MEC covered Ntchisi, Dowa, Nkhotakota and Mchinji districts while the first phase had Kasungu District, Kasungu Municipality, Dedza and Salima. The first phase was marred by faulty equipment that frustrated some potential registrants and MEC reported a 73 percent turnout.
For the second phase, unofficial data shows that Dowa registered 325 062 voters against the projected figure of 395 000 while Nkhotakota had 178 606 and Ntchisi about 140 000 against the projected figure of 163 000.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali are on record as having said that there was an improvement in the turnout of registrants during the second phase.
CCJP, on the other hand, has urged MEC to engage people to establish why they are reluctant to register despite the marked improvement during the second phase.
In an interview yesterday, CCJP national coordinator Boniface Chibwana observed that there are still some people who are reluctant to register because they have lost confidence in elected leaders after the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “MEC has tried hard and some other stakeholders have intensified civic education. I think people are now making informed decisions unlike during the first phase which was like an ad hoc exercise because civic education was carried out in the same week or the week prior to the registration.
“But we still expect that MEC should continue engaging the general populace if this [third] phase is to be successful. When we are talking of engagement we are talking about meetings with people instead of having the public address system only because some people still think the national ID qualifies them to vote. ”MEC is yet to release registration figures for the second phase.