Despite the Malawi Electoral Commission sending several reminders to political parties in the country to submit names of party representatives to monitor the voter registration and proceeding electoral activities, most parties continue to be defiant on the matter.
With only a few days to go before voter registration starts on Saturday in Mzuzu, an inspection of files from Mzuzu City Council and Malawi Electoral Commission offices on Tuesday indicates that only Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD), People’s Party (PP), Leadership with Compassion Party (LCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have submitted the names of party representatives to monitor electoral activities.
MEC’s District Elections Officer for Mzimba North Demeria Rocha explained in a recent interview that some of the parties that provide monitors for the voter registration and voting neglect the welfare of their monitors, a practice which incapacitates the monitor from doing their job as most monitors are left to starve.
“We have noted that even when parties submit the names of monitors, most of these monitors abandon the centres at lunch hour to search for food and water,” said Rocha.
But National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) District Civic Education Officer for Mzuzu and Mzimba North Wisdom Nyirenda explained that provision of political party monitors at polling/registration centres is one of the key technical processes that MEC only facilitates to ensure that voter registration is monitored in a bid to mitigate complaints about the electoral process.
“It is not the duty of MEC to ensure that Parties submit monitors, it is the duty of political parties to provide monitors and to care for them. This helps to reduce complaints and allegations of rigging during and after the electoral process,” said Nyirenda.
Apart from the MEC Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah reaching out to the parties to submit monitors through the press, MEC has in recent months engaged the political parties on the issue of submitting monitors at district level through the district elections clerks during Multi-Party Liaison Committee meetings in Mzuzu City and Mzimba North.
In June MEC’s Chief Elections Officer, Sammy Alfandika also told the press that credible elections begins with a credible voter’s roll as a way of underpinning the importance of ensuring the voter registration is monitored for transparency and credibility.
But when asked why names of monitors have still not been submitted, one of the parties, United Democratic Front (UDF) through its Regional Secretary Goodson Phiri explained that although his Party valued the voter registration exercise, cost implications of providing monitors for voter registration are one of limitations.
“We understand the importance of voter registration and we already have sent teams at area, district and constituency levels to mobilize the masses to register.
“However, for this voter registration, we may not be able to send monitors. The monitors need to be taken care of. But we are making arrangements and we will certainly provide monitors during the actual polling,” said Phiri.
Meanwhile, the DPP which was one of the first parties to submit names of monitors on Thursday, October 25, resubmitted names of monitors to MEC’s office in Mzuzu after some of its monitors left the Party alongside the Mzuzu City MP Leonard Njikho who recently joined the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
This was disclosed by DPP’s District Governor Boyd Phiri who delivered the names of the DPP’s election monitors.
“We have 92 monitors who are ready to work from Saturday when voter registration starts. We are placing two monitors at each of the 46 Centres in Mzuzu City. These will work in all the 15 Wards and we will provide them with food and all the necessary care,” said Phiri.
According to www.nice.mw, election monitoring enhances accountability and transparency which in turn boosts domestic and international confidence in the electoral process.
Regardless, MEC says it is set to roll out the eighth and final phase of the biometric voter registration exercise on Saturday, October 27 which runs until November 9 in Mzuzu City, Nkhata Bay, Likoma and Mzimba.