The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Dr. Chifundo Kachale has expressed worry over low turnout of registrants in the voter registration and verification exercise currently underway in readiness for the pending by-election slated for March 30.
Dr. Kachale expressed the worry at Maghemo secondary school registration centre on Wednesday after inspecting five centres in Chilanga and Rukulu Wards in Karonga Northwest constituency to appreciate the progress of the exercise which will end on March 7.
He said: “Unlike in Nsanje and Chikwawa, the situation in Karonga is worrisome. The centres that I have visited, the percentages are not encouraging. For example here at Maghemo, out about 4, 000 projected voters, only 180 have verified, representing five percent. We need to engage an extra gear with sensitization campaigns to woo people so that they register and verify their names”.
The MEC chairperson, has therefore, appealed to electoral stakeholders to help MEC mobilise people to go in registration centres to verify their names in order to save time on polling day.
However, party leaders in the district have attributed the low turnout to reasons ranging from inadequate time given to prepare for the by-elections to the busy farming season.
In an interview, UTM Party publicity secretary Frank Mwenifumbo said his party has embarked on the campaign to mobilise voters to register and verify their names for them to participate in the by-election to choose their favourite candidate.
He said: “The by-election has come during the farming season whereby people are busy in their gardens. However, as UTM we will engage an extra gear so that by March 7 a good number of people will have registered”.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP district chairman Emmanuel Nkhoma said the concern is genuine and has since assured MEC that his party will intensify the exercise to avoid voter apathy.
On his part, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) deputy regional governor Smart Mwakayira heaped the blame back to MEC, saying MEC did not give them enough time to implement the electoral by-election calendar.
However, Karonga District National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Public Trust civic education officer Christobel Munthali said her office will join hands with MEC’s civic education mobilising team to reach out to all corners of the constituency to deliver the messages to people.
Meanwhile, two DPP aspirants, Chancy Sinkhutwa and Kavina Chisambi, have withdrawn from the race to pave way for Lusubilo Kamwambi while UTM has Felix Katwafu as its torchbearer.
Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) will field Fwasani Silungwe while the MCP will hold its primary elections on Friday where delegates will choose between Chitonya Mwanyongo and Abraham Mwakhwawa.
About 51, 000 voters will cast their votes on March 30 to replace the fallen Legislator James Kamwambi who succumbed to Covid-19 at Chitipa district hospital last month.