National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust has described its nationwide mock voting exercise as a game changer with potential to boost voter turnout and reduce wasted votes in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Nice Trust programmes manager Gray Kalindekafe expressed the optimism in a telephone interview yesterday.
He said the exercise is expected to vastly increase the number of people expected to vote this year to 80 percent, up from 70 percent in the 2014 polls. There are 6.8 million registered voters this year compared to 7.5 million in 2014.
Kalindekafe said the ongoing exercise is taking place in the country’s 193 constituencies and Nice volunteers have taken centre stage to sensitise people so that there should be further reduction of null and void votes from one percent in 2014 to almost zero this year.
He said: “We are using dummies to train people on how to vote so that we should reduce null and void votes. This is being done throughout the country with the involvement of 8 000 volunteers.
“Through this exercise, we believe the number of people who turn up to vote on May 21 will increase because many are excited because they have practised how to cast the vote.”
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa said the number of registered voters to cast their votes will swell because people have the euphoria, partly triggered by new developments on the political arena such as presidential public debates being conducted.
Earlier, Mesn had noted low civic and voter education ahead of the launch of the official 60-day campaign by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and asked the electoral body to ensure the exercise is intensified.
There has been dwindling turn out in past elections and political parties and commentators have given varying reasons for the development. The turn-out has declined from a record 93 percent in the 1999 general elections.
Statistics show that during the first post-independence multiparty general elections in 1994, there was an 80 percent voter turn-out which swelled to 93 percent in 1999 only to shrink to 59 percent in 2004.
MEC statistics show that voter turn-out improved to 78.2 percent in 2009 before slowing down to 70.7 percent in 2014.
While political analysts attribute the trend to waning excitement among voters after the country adopted plural politics in 1993, some political parties, notably those in opposition, have blamed the situation on failure by governing parties to deliver on their promises.