Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has asked Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to conduct a second phase of voter registration in Dedza, Kasungu and Salima where the first phase of the exercise which ends today.
But MEC says it will decide whether to extend the first phase or not after evaluating the exercise in the three initial districts.
A statement issued yesterday and signed by CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo states that the turnout in the three districts has been “depressingly poor”, rendering the registration exercise “a huge flop”.
Reads the statement in part: “Surely, MEC has demonstrated to be unready to effectively carry out the exercise across the country. The cases of breakdowns of registration equipment in some of the registration centres coupled with low turnout clearly shows that MEC has failed in preparations and to massively civic-educate citizens accordingly.”
Mtambo said his institution has the impression that some people who have decided not to register might have fears that “perhaps, rigging may ensue during the 2019 Tripartite Elections and therefore it serves no difference to register or not”.
“These concerns must never be taken lightly, citizens and politicians have raised these concerns in previous elections but there have been no efforts to work on the concerns. As CHRR, we believe that this time around it is not enough just to say people have a democratic right to vote. There is need for strategies to dispel such seemingly genuine perceptions in people,” reads the statement further.
He then urged MEC and all stakeholders to work on raising awareness that people should go and register to avoid voter apathy during the elections next year.
“And we expect MEC to have a second phase in all these three districts,” he said.
In an interview yesterday, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the commission needs to look at the overall picture of the figures before making a decision on whether to extend the voter registration or not.
“At this juncture, I cannot say whether we will extend or not, and for how long, if we do. We need to look at the overall picture,” she said.
Ansah said the commission will have to interpret the figures by comparing those generated in 2014 with those projected for this year to conclude whether turnout is low or not.
“Having said that, I went to Kasungu on the seventh and eighth day. What I saw is that registration figures ranged from 30 percent to 51 percent of the projected figures.
“Now, that was on the eighth day, there were still six days to go. So, we will only know the figures and determine whether there has been low turnout or not after tomorrow,” she said.
Last week, opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) also called on MEC to suspend voter registration in the three districts due to what it termed technical hiccups and lack of mass sensitisation.