Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says it expects to open voter registration in April this year in which the national IDs will be used to register eligible voters for next year’s tripartite elections.
This was revealed yesterday during an interactive meeting between MEC and Nation Publications Limited (NPL) editorial managers at the latter’s head office in Blantyre.
MEC commissioner the Reverend Clifford Baloyi said the commission had lined up several activities this year towards conducting credible 2019 elections.
Voter registration is one of the key activities MEC, which adopted the electoral cycle approach to elections management, has put in place this year in readiness for the 2019 elections.
Baloyi also cleared existing misconceptions over the use of the national identification card (IDs), saying they will not replace MEC voter IDs but will be the primary source of identification when registering voters.
He said MEC was aware that not everybody had registered for the national IDs, as such an agreement had been reached with National Registration Bureau (NRB) to deploy its officials in all constituencies so that those who would want to register to vote but do not have the national ID should get one.
“The idea behind using the national ID is to have a clean voter register. The problem is that we have several foreigners with driving licenses or even passports but with the national IDs the story is different,” said Baloyi.
He also said they were looking to Parliament to amend the laws so that only a national ID could be used for voter registration and not any other form of ID.
The use of national IDs created a heated debate both in Parliament and outside as some feared it was a ploy to rig the elections.
In June last year, opposition members of Parliament (MPs) ganged up in Parliament demanding an explanation from MEC on why the national ID was made a prerequisite for voting eligibility.
MEC’s newly appointed chief elections officer (CEO) Sammy Alfandika added that the idea of using national IDs was to ensure consistency in capturing data required by the commission.
He also indicated that use of national IDs was cost-effective as MEC will only be required to produce a low-cost card unlike the previous voter ID card.
Currently, the NRB is distributing 4.6 million national IDs in Central and Southern region districts since last October. About 9.2 million Malawians registered during the national registration exercise which started in May last year.
Already, MEC has implemented several other activities ahead of the polls such as review of the media code of conduct and accreditation of 110 civil society organisations to carry out civic and voter education activities.
Besides the voter registration, during the next three months, MEC also intends to embark on the development of a 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, civic and voter education strategy for 2019 and beyond, and procurement of registration equipment and materials, among others.
NPL managing editor Ephraim Munthali applauded MEC leadership for the progressive thinking saying the country’s flagship newspaper was ready to work with the commission in any capacity while ensuring professionalism at all times in line with its editorial policy and code of conduct.
The purpose of the meeting was for MEC to interact and share with NPL management activities the commission has prepared in readiness of the forthcoming 2019 Tripartite Elections.