Nobody on the street expected voter turnout during Tuesday’s by-elections to be so high.
In the past, especially during by-elections, voter apathy was widespread. In fact my simple research shows that voter turnout has been on the decline in Malawi from a record 93 percent in the 1999 General Elections to 59 percent in 2004.
In 2000 local government elections, it was just 14 percent.
In October 2014, when MEC conducted by-elections in two constituencies—Thyolo East and Blantyre North—and five wards after voting was postponed during the May 20 Tripartite Elections due to death of aspiring candidates voter turnout was appalling. MEC said at the time voter turnout was around 50 percent.
One of the factors for voter apathy in the past has been poor electoral administration and mismanagement of elections by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). No?
Reports of insufficient voter registration materials at registration centres often result in potential voters being turned away. In some cases, allegations of partisanship in the distribution of materials and other problems associated with the voter registration exercise, also affected voters.
There has also been improper handling of electoral complaints and disputes, an issue which irks voters. And some dubious decisions and activities of MEC including the proposal to increase the number of constituencies from 177 to 242 in 1998 irritated many voters.
But that is not all. Failure of successful candidates to deliver development projects in their areas does little to motivate voters to go out and vote again. Why I should spend hours in the baking sun on the queue to vote, when candidates do not keep campaign promises let alone bother to show their faces in the villages they claim they come from and represent? Consequently voters feel cheated and betrayed.
In some cases, candidates often move out of rural areas to urban areas upon election and rarely visit their constituents to consult on issues to be tabled in Parliament. Then, of course, there is also the tendency of some members of Parliament (MPs) who cross the floor at their own volition. This also makes voters to feel cheated. No wonder, voters were not as enthusiastic as before to go out and vote.
But events of Tuesday left us on the streets scratching our heads: why did voters turn out in such large numbers? Why would they throng polling stations in thousands when the elected officials will only hold that office for a year?
Word on the street is that, voters are angry with the arrogance of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Both the outcome and turnout should be enough to ring bells in the ears of APM. Will he change his ways. Will the DPP do business as usual after these by-elections?
For sure one thing was made clear on Tuesday; Malawians want change.
We mourn with Somalia
Who cares about Somalia? We on the streets do. Almost 300 people were killed when a powerful bomb blast ripped through Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, last Saturday.
The attack marked the deadliest assault the country has ever witnessed. My media colleagues who have travelled to Mogadishu with Africa Union forces tell a story of a beautiful country. The closest I have been to there is when I visited Jijiga, a small dusty town in Ethiopia’s Somali border region.
For many years now, Somalia has been treated as a failed State. But now some people want to draw the world’s attention to Somalia after the deadly blast. They are asking on social media: Where is the collective outrage when a similar deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, drew a Tsunami of outrage?
We on the streets, mourn with Somalia!