The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has rebuffed calls by opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to incorporate interpretation of voters’ intent in the commission’s polling guidelines for the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
MCP had argued that establishment of a new regulation that can translate the ultimate intention of non-specific voters can help to reduce the number of null and void votes in next year’s elections.
But MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the country’s electoral laws are clear on the voting processes.
She said: “It is clear in our [civic and voter education] CVE [procedure]. The cancellation and the ticking can be one. Someone can choose to tick [on more than one choice] while another person can cross [the same]. So, how do you determine which one, even if they have cancelled?
“But we will continue working with political parties so that we are on the same [page]. Before we do polling, we are going to have [more] stakeholders meetings, and we urge all those that are not clear about these issues to let us know.”
Ansah, who is a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, wondered why political parties were raising such critical issues in the media, arguing that the parties never raised such concerns at a recent stakeholders meeting MEC held with them alongside the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) and the National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof).
She admitted that MEC has not looked at National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust recommendations over seven months after they were presented last October.
In an interview with our sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said his party was in support of a recommendation by Nice Trust advising MEC to swiftly address key deficiencies that amplified invalid votes in both the 2014 Tripartite Elections and the October 2017 Ey-elections.
He said: “I think it is critical. As Nice put it [after the by-elections], we really need to establish the intention [of voters] because sometimes you clearly see that [they wanted] to tick in this box, but because the marking spilled over to the next box then they say the ballot paper is invalid.”
Mkaka said creating a legitimate interpretation for voters’ faulty decisions, mainly where marked ballots lack exactness and accuracy of expression, would enable MEC to accommodate thousands of electorates who accidentally make mistakes during the voting process.
MEC statistics show that out of 7.4 million Malawians who registered for the 2014 elections, about 5.2 million votes were valid while over 50 000 were null and void, representing 1.07 percent of the total voter turnout.
Meanwhile, CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani has appealed to all electoral stakeholders in the country to intensify mobilisation of people ahead of the first phase of the voter registration exercise which starts on June 26 to July 9 in Kasungu Municipality, Mchinji, Dowa, Ntchisi, Nkhotakota and Kasungu districts.
In its Preliminary Report on Observations and Recommendations of the October 2017 By-elections, Nice, called on MEC to preserve the credibility of elections in the country by ensuring transparency in determining null and void votes to avoid confusion in the forthcoming elections.