NICE Trust Executive Director Ollen Mwalubunju has appealed to election stakeholders, mainly Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), to address critical election issues to ensure fair, free and credible elections.

Mwalubunju said this during a press briefing at NICE Trust’s Election Situation Room at Mount Soche Hotel on Monday. Other than the critical issues, he also acknowledged the good work by MEC in many areas.

“MEC had done well in proactive communication of information on critical election matters to all stakeholders; implementation of most administrative reforms to enhance the credibility of the electoral process and election results while increasing the confidence of the public in the elections; effective use of the National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) to engage with electoral stakeholders and enhance transparency and accountability and successful implementation of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR); and accreditation of national and international observers for the electoral process,” Mwalubunju said.

On some of the things NICE Trust has observed, ban on transfers is a huge concern.

“NICE has observed that MEC decided to institute an administrative ban on transfers. Consequently, significant numbers of voters who are not in the places where they registered – such as college students and employees who have relocated have been administratively disenfranchised by the decision,” he said.

NICE Trust has also appealed for safeguarding the secrecy of the ballot which was observed in the previous general elections.

“NICE would like to call upon presiding officers in all polling stations to ensure that polling booths are at safe distances from both polling staff and other voters and that the secrecy of the ballot cast by any voter is guaranteed,” Mwalubunju said.

On vote counting and ballot paper reconciliation, NICE Trust acknowledged the improvements instituted by MEC to ensure accurate and transparent vote counting at polling stations.

“NICE would like to appeal to all political party monitors at the polling stations to ensure that counting of votes at their stations adheres to the procedure that is clearly laid down  under sections 90-92 of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act. Adhering to the procedure and keeping correct records will enhance the credibility of election results as it helps in ballot paper reconciliation and negates any attempts of election rigging by ballot stuffing or switching of ballot boxes,” he said.

Another critical issue highlighted by Mwalubunju was the transmission of results from polling stations to tally centres.

According to information provided by MEC, once election results of a polling centre are determined and signed for, the results will be taken to the Constituency Tally Centre by the presiding officer of the polling station, together with all other election materials, under police escort but political party monitors and observers are not allowed to be part of the escort.

“This is one arrangement that is raising questions among voters.  Their fears are based on the possibility that the presiding officer if left alone may be put under duress to tamper with results in various ways and  present different results  at the Constituency Tally Centre.

“In view of this risk and to enhance confidence in the integrity of results, NICE calls upon MEC to make provision for at least two political party monitors at each polling station to accompany the Presiding Officer to deliver results to the Constituency Tally Centres,” Mwalubunju said urging all political parties to have an effective system of communication between their monitors at polling stations and at tally centres.

Mwalubunju also called on all political parties to avoid sensational statements and propagation of fake news and politicians should exercise restraint, embrace objectivity, reason and sobriety in approach.

NICE also urged the media to stick to their professional ethics for any story on elections that they wish to broadcast.

“In particular, journalists and media houses must avoid sensational reporting and propagating fake news which has potential of inciting violent acts,” he said.

On peace, law and order during elections, NICE Trust has appealed for high levels of professionalism from the officers deployed and their independence and impartiality in maintaining peace, law and order and to resist political and unlawful orders that would result in contravening the electoral law.

Mwalubunju commended the Malawi Police Service (MPS) for its efforts so far, to provide security for the electoral process but urged MPS to publish contact numbers for their National, Regional and District Incident Command Centres as exemplified by Karonga Police Station whose contact number was published on Sunday.

By Erah Pinifolo, Mec Stringer, Kasungu

Chirwa

CHIRWA: People living with physical challenges also have the right to vote

National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust has appealed to registered people living with physical challenges to vote on May 21.

In an interview, NICE District Civic Education Officer for Kasungu, Gerald Chirwa, observed that most people living with physical challenges do not vote during elections despite registering.


Chirwa said those people feel left out during elections hence the call for them to vote in large numbers during the May 21 elections.


"Despite living with physical challenges, you all have the rights just like every Malawian. Therefore as NICE Trust, we are asking the registered voters to go in large numbers and cast their vote during the polling day," Chirwa said.


He said NICE Trust has intensified civic voter education in the district to woo more people including those with disabilities to cast their votes during the May 21 tripartite elections.


Jack Mwale one of the people living with disabilities said they face a lot of challenges when casting their votes.


He said one thing that they lack most is the information on how best they can cast their vote.

 
"Most of the time we feel left out as people with disabilities as there are no initiatives targeting people like us,” he said.


According to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) people living with disabilities, the elderly, and people living with albinism will be the priority at the polling centres so that they do not wait for a long time to cast their votes.

By ANDREW MUKHUWA, MEC Stringer

Jane Ansah

MEC Chairperson Dr Jane Ansah visiting Bitilinyu Camp in Nsanje where he encouraged the people to vote 

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has assured flood victims in Nsanje district that they will vote despite losing their voter certificates to floods since the electoral body still has names of registered voters.

MEC Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah made the remarks on Wednesday in the district when she visited flood victims at various camps to console them and find out how prepared they are to participate in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

"I wanted to inform them that no matter what they have gone through, they haven't lost their right to vote. MEC will create satellite centres for those that will not go back to where they registered and those that lost their voter certificates,” Ansah said.

She added that she was impressed with the determination of the people in Nsanje who are willing to participate in the exercise.

"From the first camp of Bitilinyu, they said preserved their NRB cards as well as certificates, so most of the people have their voter cards and we are confident that they will vote," Ansah said.

Ansah also said the Dry Test Results Transmission the Commission conducted went on well, where within a short time, they were able to receive 83.6 percent of sample results from tally centres, an indication that there will be a smooth transmission of results from district tally centres to the main tally centre.

In an interview, Chairperson for Bitilinyu Camp in Nsanje South Constituency, Shadreck Nyantondola, said the visit by the MEC Chairperson has renewed their willingness to vote as it has cast away doubts that were there.

"The Chairperson has encouraged us and, our morale to exercise our rights to vote has been boosted. When we were relocating to higher grounds, we did that in a hurry and some lost their certificates in the process,” Nyantondola said.

Apart from Bitilinyu, Ansah also visited Mpomba camp in South West and Bangula camp in Nsanje Lalanje Constituency.

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has assured flood victims in Nsanje district that they will vote despite losing their voter certificates to floods since the electoral body still has names of registered voters.

MEC Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah made the remarks on Wednesday in the district when she visited flood victims at various camps to console them and find out how prepared they are to participate in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

"I wanted to inform them that no matter what they have gone through, they haven't lost their right to vote. MEC will create satellite centres for those that will not go back to where they registered and those that lost their voter certificates,” Ansah said.

She added that she was impressed with the determination of the people in Nsanje who are willing to participate in the exercise.

"From the first camp of Bitilinyu, they said preserved their NRB cards as well as certificates, so most of the people have their voter cards and we are confident that they will vote," Ansah said.

Ansah also said the Dry Test Results Transmission the Commission conducted went on well, where within a short time, they were able to receive 83.6 percent of sample results from tally centres, an indication that there will be a smooth transmission of results from district tally centres to the main tally centre.

In an interview, Chairperson for Bitilinyu Camp in Nsanje South Constituency, Shadreck Nyantondola, said the visit by the MEC Chairperson has renewed their willingness to vote as it has cast away doubts that were there.

"The Chairperson has encouraged us and, our morale to exercise our rights to vote has been boosted. When we were relocating to higher grounds, we did that in a hurry and some lost their certificates in the process,” Nyantondola said.

Apart from Bitilinyu, Ansah also visited Mpomba camp in South West and Bangula camp in Nsanje Lalanje Constituency.

By Joshua Mphanda, MEC Stringer

Katantha

KATANTHA: Monitors would know the procedures as they move around the polling centres 

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has trained roving monitors for the seven presidential candidates contesting in this year's polls

The roving monitors who were drawn from the Democratic Progressive Party, Malawi Congress Party, UTM,  Umodzi Party, United Democratic Front, Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy and as well as from the independent candidate Reverend Kaliya were grilled in the new election results management and system in Lilongwe.

Speaking at the training in Lilongwe, MEC’s Deputy Director of Electoral Services, Wellington Katantha described the training as 'timely' since it will help the roving monitors familiarise themselves with the voting and counting procedure put in place.

"We organised this training targeting roving monitors for all those contesting on presidential candidate ticket so they should know the procedures put in place as they move around in polling stations when 21 May comes," Katantha said.

He said that the training will also help monitors identify problems on polling day at the stations and be able to fix them by liaising with the commission.

MEC requires that each presidential candidate provide a maximum of 10 roving monitors at the national tally centre, five at district level, four at constituency and two monitors per stream.

NATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR CIVIC EDUCATION (NICE) Trust

… Making Democracy Work – Take Part in Public Life

 

NICE REFLECTION ON THE VOTER REGISTRATION EXERCISE

NICE Public Trust is one of the accredited organizations to do civic and voter education for the 2019 Tripartite Elections. The Trust therefore is mandated to do mobilization and raise awareness for eligible voters to register during all the phases of registration, verification of voters roll and during the actual polling next year.

Reflections the Voter Registration Exercise So far

NICE Secretariat organized a review meeting for the phase one (which involved Kasungu Municipality, Kasungu District, Dedza and   Salima districts) and phase ( involving Mchinji, Nkhotakota, Dowa and Ntchisi) of voters’ registration exercise to assess and reflect on how the phase one and two mobilization, awareness and implementation was done. The meeting also took time to enhance knowledge, skills and capacity in mobilization and awareness (civic education) in the phases to come. The meeting drew participants from NICE secretariat, regional offices and phase one and two districts staff. Among the many successes, NICE reached out to all the constituencies and wards in the first Phase. Through its own initiatives and collaborated efforts with other stakeholders, NICE achieved over 90% of its planned mobilization activities in all the districts in phase 1 and 2 and also phase 3 districts.

Mobilization

NICE as a key organization in civic and voter education mobilized people to register during Phase one by using a number of approaches. Among the many successes NICE reached out to all the constituencies and wards in all the two phases that have gone phase through its own initiatives and collaborated efforts with other stakeholders. The most effective’s approaches in mobilization used are music shows, football matches, mobile loud-hailing punctuated by whistle-stop shows in trading Centers, and many others.

Observations

The reflection meeting noted that there was low turnout at the beginning of the registration exercise in Phase 1 but there has been tremendous improvement in Phase 2. The Phase 1 Low turnout is however due to non-civic education issues. Despite all the efforts and reaching out to all constituencies and wards, a number of people did not go to register due to non -civic education related issues.

  • Frustration due to unsatisfactory delivery of most elected leaders that did not meet the expectations of and promises to most communities in the concerned districts. In fact some view the whole process of elections as “merely enriching few people who do not add any value to their lives”;
  • Most people registered in previous elections because the MEC voter registration certificate acted as an ID in different transactions including in financial institutions. Having the national IDs in 2017, a good section of the population feels that they have no motivation for registering in the current voter registration exercise;
  • There was also a serious perception of mistrust in the electoral process itself that was rampant in many quarters that feel that voting will not change anything because the results of elections are predetermined by the electoral authorities;
  • Most people also feel that they should be left free to decide on the choice to vote or not since Malawi’s Laws do not make participation in elections compulsory. They generally felt that voting or not voting cannot change their current economic status. Hence, the decision not even to go to register;
  • Illiteracy levels also played a role in the low voter registration figures because some through that they would vote using the national ID card issues by NRB in spite of hearing about appeals to go and register;

These gaps were identified in Phase 1 and NICE intensified its awareness and mobilization strategies to address these issues. It is for this reason that media reports and even the Malawi Electoral Commission results on statistics of Voter registration exercise in phase 2 have shown improvement and hopefully phase 3 will also follow the same pattern and even better.

Having noticed that some of the reasons for low turnout for registration in the first phase, NICE will now engage persuasion of eligible voters to register once the phase of registration comes to their area. Apart from the traditional ways of conducting voter education

  • NICE will emphasize on persuading people to exercise their right to choose leaders by starting with the first step which is registration and eventually voting for their leaders.
  • NICE has embarked on creation of messages that address the benefits of voter’s registration or targeting particular challenges.
  • The Trust is using innovative ways of reaching out to the people for instance in urban settings especially for phase three by using in-store radio advertising. NICE has placed jingles to mobilise shoppers in major supermarkets for registration. In this way eligible voters will get messages on registration while they are shopping.
  • NICE is also using social media platforms like Whatsapp groups, Facebook and many other forums to persuade people to register.
  • The Trust is targeting Estate owners, Private company owners, bank managers and factory supervisors, to release employees to go and register because the actual registration using the National Identity card takes less than 2 minutes.
  • In Phase 2 which coincided with the World Cup, NICE was using the world cup matches aired on community radio stations to give out voter registration exercise and the results were positive.

Vote of Thanks

In recent weeks Malawi has witnessed launch of political entities, conventions and movements. During such meeting the politicians have also gone a step further to spell out the importance of Registration. NICE wishes to commend all political parties and members who have done this as this is the only way that make the voter registration exercise a success. Participation in an election starts with registration. Again all eligible voters should also be aware that choosing of leaders lay in their hands and this can only be done if they register. NICE is also calling upon all eligible voters to register and take part in all electoral processes and finally take part in the actual polling on 21st May 2019.

Recommendations

  • Collaboration and networking leads to immense success in awareness and mobilization for the voter registration exercise;
  • The fight against low voter turnout can be won if all stakeholders participate in implementing vigorous civic and voter education campaigns since this will always remain a collective responsibility. In this regard, all opinion leaders (including traditional, political and religious) and other gate-keepers need to play their rightful roles in the elections;
  • Successful implementation of electoral processes will contribute towards achievement of good governance as stipulated in both MGDS and SDGs.