Electoral stakeholders yesterday expressed optimism that phase four of the voter registration exercise which starts today will attract a high turnout of eligible voters.
The stakeholders—Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), civil society organisations (CSOs) and political parties—said this ahead of the start of the exercise in three Southern Region districts of Mwanza, Chikwawa and Blantyre as well as Ntcheu in the Central Region.
Responding to enquiries from The Nation on their projection for the fourth phase, National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) said they expect a high turnout following improvements noted in the second and third phases.
The first phase of the registration exercise, which covered Salima, Dedza and Kasungu districts in the Central Region, was characterised by a lower than projected turnout which CSOs and political parties attributed to malfunctioning equipment that frustrated eligible voters who endured long hours in queues.
Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa yesterday said his network is expecting that some challenges encountered in the previous phases will be minimized.
He said: “So far, a lot has improved, but on the challenges we are yet to see when the next phase starts. Turnout has greatly improved, of course. More women were registering than men which is not surprising because the population of men is less compared to that of women.”
CCJP acting national coordinator Boniface Chibwana, on his part, urged all stakeholders to play their role in sensitising eligible voters to register.
He said: “We anticipate that numbers will keep going up. We also expect MEC, Nice and political parties to go into constituencies and mobilise people. There is need for concerted efforts in mobilising people; we cannot leave it up to MEC alone.”
Nice Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju said his organisation has taken a new approach in mobilising people to turn up in their large numbers more especially in the urban setting.
He said: “We have innovative ways on how we will be mobilising people because there is a difference on how people perceive information in rural and urban areas. One of the ways is direct engagement with the people, distributing leaflets, talking to employers to release their employees and intensifying radio jingles.”
The three bodies said they are using the resources they have to reach out to people on the ground through various methods such as sensitisation meetings, jingles and programmes.
In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the registration exercise in Blantyre yesterday, MEC commissioner Clifford Baloyi said the commission is geared for the fourth phase.
He said deployment of staff and equipment was made yesterday.
Baloyi expressed optimism about a high turnout because their registration equipment is fast; hence, people would not wait for long.
He said: “We are expecting that turnout will be quite huge. Our registration kit is quite fast and these reports have gone everywhere.”
MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika said the electoral body’s major concern was failure by political parties to submit names of monitors. He said some were submitting up to four names.
But Alfandika said he could not give the total figures for the registration exercise after the first three phases, saying: “In the previous phases, I cannot give a total but the recent one that has just ended… The one in Lilongwe, we hit slightly over one million which is the highest number we have had.”
Three of the political parties—Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Democratic front (UDF)—said they are also geared for the fourth phase.
UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo said they hope the exercise will proceed well while DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said they will continue with sensitisation of voters because it is important.
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali said everybody across their party structures will flock to the areas where the exercise will be held.
Data provided by MEC last month showed that 73 out of every 100 eligible voters registered in the first phase of the voter registration exercise in Dedza, Kasungu and Salima districts.
The actual registration figures represented about 89 percent of those registered during the 2014 exercise in the three districts covered in phase one.