By Madalitso Kateta – MEC Stringer
As opposition political parties and some Civil Society Organisations continue with their appeal for the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to redo voter registration in districts that were in the first phase of the voter registration excise, Member of Parliament for Mulanje West, Patricia Kaliati has accused government of deliberately withholding funds for civic and voter education in the concerned districts as part of the DPP tactics to rig next year’s tripartite elections.
But Information Minister, Nicholas Dausi who is also DPP Publicity Secretary has since rubbished the accusations describing Kaliati’s sentiments as a show of ignorance on electoral laws.
Speaking in an interview with MEC on Friday, Kaliati said that the DPP strategists know that the party does not enjoy support in the centre and were deliberately frustrating the civic and voter education efforts in the region to give the party an advantage in next year’s polls.
“The DPP knows it does not enjoy support in the center which also happens to have been earmarked for the early phases of the voter registration excise and they are getting advantage on the fact that voters are disappointed with the empty campaign promises made in the run up to the 2014 tripartite elections,” said Kaliati.
She however spared the blame on MEC and the CSOs that were accredited to do civic and voter education for next year’s tripartite elections saying government was to blame for the unsuccessful civic and voter education for the voter registration excise.
“Government is not interested in some parts of the country. Government is interested in areas where it has support and take it or leave it you will see how the civic and voter education is going to be conducted in areas where the DPP enjoys support,” she said adding, “MEC and the CSOs that were accredited to do the civic and voter education have to rise above these politics. Of course the MEC can say politicians are driving this voter apathy, but I think MEC and the CSOs have a civic responsibility of engaging with the electoralates and sensitive them that shunning to register as voters equals to putting back bad leadership into power,” said Kaliati.
But speaking in a phone interview on Saturday, Dausi said that Kaliati’s sentiments were misleading and unfortunate and they were a demonstration of her ignorance on electoral laws.
“Section 76 of the Malawi Electoral Commission Act gives the commission powers to accredit civil society organisations to conduct civic and voter education for any elections in the country and Kaliati’s sentiments are misguided and are a demonstration of ignorance of electoral laws,” said Dausi.
But speaking in another interview, People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) President, Mark Katsonga Phiri said that the planning and publicity for the voter registration excise was poorly handled and people did not understand the need to register as voters.
“People are tired and they didn’t understand the need of registering as voters they believe having a national identity card was enough to qualify them as voters,” said Katsonga.
And speaking in another interview, Gift Trapence, Executive Director of the Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) said the first phase of the voter registration excise was a flop saying this was a result of a civic and voter education excise that was not properly done to the extent that some people were not aware of the excise
“MEC should learn a lesson from the poor turnout of registered voters in the first phase and intensity voter civic education in the remaining phases. As it now stands MEC would look as being biased towards the DPP,” said Trapence.
He said MEC should accept calls to redo the voter registration excise in the districts that were in the first phase of the voter registration excise.
“There have been calls to redo the registration excise in the areas that were in the first phase, but these calls have been rejected, why is MEC being on the defensive? This is denying people to vote, this is gross violation of citizens’ right to vote,” said Trapence.
However a joint investigation by the Malawi Electoral Commission on the reasons to the low voter registration turnout in the first phase of the excise has uncovered that the attitude of elected leaders when they are voted into power is driving voter apathy.
MEC Commissioner Dr. Moffat Banda recently told reporters that the first phase of the voter registration excise had suffered challenges because people were complaining that elected leaders do not serve the interests of the electors once voted into office.
“People are complaining that their elected leaders do not serve the public interest, the leaders are never close to the electors once they are in office and they don’t see a reason of registering as voters so that they vote for the same people or new faces that will not serve their interests,” said Banda.
A pollster MEC pollster indicated that out of the 1,272,000 voters that were projected to register in the first phase of the excise covering Dedza, Kasungu and Salima, only 670,000 turned to register as voters.
According to the pollster out of the 400,000 projected registrants in Dedza, only 300,000 registered as voters with Kasungu registering 200,000 of the projected 472,000 voters while in Salima only 170,000 of the projected 400,000 voters turned out to register.