Parties outline voters roll mess

A sample of the messed up voter’s roll pictured at one of the centres
A sample of the messed up voter’s roll pictured at one of the centres

Major political parties contesting in the May 20 Tripartite Elections have described the suspended voters’ roll inspection exercise as a mess which would have created suspicion and chaos on the road to the polls.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) last week announced that the voters’ roll was ready for verification with phase one from March 24 to 28 2014 covering districts in the Northern Region and parts of the Central Region while phase two was scheduled to start from April 1 to 5 covering Lilongwe and districts in the Southern Region.

However, the exercise had barely started when MEC suspended it, citing logistical challenges and inadequacies in the preliminary voters’ roll as the reason for the suspension.

But Malawi Congress Party MCP) yesterday claimed that investigations it conducted in seven districts on the first and second days of the voters’ roll inspection found that some names of registered voters were missing or there was massive duplication of names in some instances.

The investigation, which covered Kasungu, Mchinji, Dowa, Ntchisi, Salima and Dedza, among others, found that the voters’ roll contained incomplete or unidentified names with letters missing.

“In some instances, it looked like someone had just punched in alphabetical letters randomly, names which did not make sense. We found at least 30 percent of such names. There was also duplication of the voters’ roll in some centres, the few who were privileged to have their names appear had their names repeated three or four times. It was total chaos,” said MCP director of elections Henry Kamata in an interview yesterday.

The MCP officials also found that a registered voter’s date of birth was 1895 and at one centre in Dedza North, there was only one name on the roll when over 1 300 people had registered.

Other anomalies discovered included missing photographs, missing names or transposed gender of the registered voters.

Added Kamata: “Interestingly, such anomalies were being found in constituencies where there is a serving Cabinet minister or senior official of the party in power.”

MCP said MEC should have been transparent on the reasons for the suspension so that electoral stakeholders could provide support.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) director of elections Kondwani Nankhumwa said in an interview yesterday that the party received reports of anomalies on Monday and immediately alerted MEC.

“We received reports from some centres that had registered over 3 000 people, but the list which came only had 1 000 people. There were a lot of incidences of missing photographs and even names against photographs were wrong,” he said.

Nankhumwa said the proposed one week to clean up the mess in the voters’ roll was inadequate.

DPP has since warned MEC not to dare suggest that anyone with a registration card would go vote on May 20 because that would give advantage to those who bought cards from unsuspecting registered voters.

United Democratic Front (UDF) secretary general Kandi Padambo said MEC’s hasty suspension of the inspection of the voters’ roll only vindicated what the party had earlier on warned the commission that there was a need for independent electoral stakeholders to assist in the process.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, an electoral stakeholder and member of the National Electoral Consultative Forum (Necof), said the suspension was a learning curve for MEC to consult widely and listen to advice in future.

Said CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni: “MEC should see this as a crisis. There are so many players in the electoral process and it is important to satisfy all players, especially the political ones to avoid mistrust.”

Chisoni suggested that MEC should invite stakeholders under Necof and inform them of the challenges they have faced in this curtailed exercise to rebuild confidence and trust in the electoral process.

MEC officials were not immediately available to comment on issues raised by stakeholders and political partners.

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    I get really surprised with the way we conduct elections. Why new registrations every election? Countries conduct election at very short notices. Even Crimea held election in 16 days!

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