Representatives of some political parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) say they noted an improvement in voter registration phase three for the 2019 Tripartite Elections after a poor start in the first and second phases.
In separate interviews yesterday, governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and CSOs urged the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to continue improving things as the registration process continues.
But MEC said the main problem during the first two phases of the registration process was people’s lukewarm response to the exercise.
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said while the improvements were worth commending, there was need for MEC to find solutions to some technical challenges raised in the first two phases, including poor staffing levels and faulty and non-weather-friendly equipment.
He said: “We [MCP] are generally impressed with the way the phase has been conducted. There have been some improvements and we have to register our appreciation for that.
“However, there were some hiccups which we feel MEC didn’t address, but were noted during the first and second phases. There were things such as using faulty machines and low staffing levels which we feel make the commission seem not to be ready to run general elections. In this phase, these issues could have been solved.”
Munthali observed that running the voter registration exercise concurrently with registration for Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and Population and Housing Census is negatively affecting turn up.
DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi agreed with Munthali that the third phase, which covered Lilongwe District, progressed well.
But he dismissed accusations that the governing party was silent on mobilising people to register.
“We have done the mobilisation. We have been calling on people to go and register.This third phase has been good and we have seen a greater improvement than in the first two phases,” said Dausi, who is Minister of Information and Communications Technology.
On his part, Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) executive director Steve Duwa said the improvements in the third phase have proved that MEC has good intentions.
He said: “There is a great improvement, indeed. This is a sign that preparations, on the part of MEC and other stakeholders, have greatly improved too.”
In an interview, MEC chief elections officer Samuel Alfandika dismissed accusations that the commission experienced faulty equipment that frustrated potential voters who gave up after waiting long hours.
He said MEC is using the same equipment and staff in all phases.
Said Alfandika: “The voter registration figures received from almost 90 percent of the centres in Lilongwe appear to be relatively higher than those in the previous two phases. The difference that has led to the turnout in phase three is that more eligible voters became responsive to calls by MEC, political parties, CSOs and others players to participate in the voter registration.”
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said the improved turnout in Lilongwe was impressive.
But he noted that some technical problems persisted, with some kits not charging using solar panels and inadequate and generators that developed faults along the way.
National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju reserved his comments, preferring to wait for a comprehensive report his organisation will compile by tomorrow.
During the first phase, MEC covered Kasungu, Dedza and Salima districts while in the second phase covered Nkhotakota, Ntchisi, Dowa and Mchinji and the third phase was in Lilongwe City and Lilongwe District.
The next phase will be implemented from August 16 to 29 in Blantyre City, Blantyre District, Mwanza, Chikwawa and Ntcheu.