MEC to conduct research on voter apathy

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has announced plans to conduct research aimed at determining some of the factors that lead to voter apathy particularly during by-elections in the country.

Speaking in Nsanje at the end of the voter verification and registration exercise on Tuesday, MEC chairperson Justice Dr Chifundo Kachali said the decision has been made following continued low voter turnout during by elections despite the electoral body in conjunction with other electoral stakeholders engaging in massive awareness campaigns prior to every election.

He made the remarks after inspecting some registration centers in Nsanje Lalanje ward where it was observed that of    the 17, 306 voters who registered during the 2019 Tripartite elections, only about 30 percent of those have managed to verify their names.

It also transpired during the inspection exercise that an extra 2 percent of voters who registered in 2019 have registered to take part in the Nsanje Lalanje ward by-elections. This is a drop from an average of 60 percent turnout which was registered in the same district in March this year during parliamentary by-elections.

Speaking to reporters after the voter verification and registration exercise, the MEC chair said the low turnout might lead to another possible voter apathy during the upcoming by-elections.

He, however, said people who registered during the 2019 tripartite elections shall still be allowed to cast their vote come 29th June despite failing to verify their names as their details are still intact with the electoral body.

“As the electoral body each and every time we conduct elections, we make sure we intensify civic and voter education in order for voters to come out in large numbers. It has come to our notice however that the number of voters during by elections keeps on dwindling which is very worrisome.

“As such through our research, monitoring and evaluation directorate we intend to carry out a proper research to identify some of the factors that can explain the behaviour of voters in choosing not take part in elections. We believe that if we are able to identify those factors, we shall be able to devise right interventions in dealing with voter apathy in the country,” said Kachali.

On his part, Political analyst Rafik Hajat of the Institute for Policy interaction said voter apathy in the country can be attributed to loss of trust the electorates have developed in their leaders over the past years due to their inability to improve their livelihoods once elected.

MEC is continuing with its planned by-elections to be held this month end in Lalanje ward in Nsanje Lalanje constituency, Chikwembere ward in Blantyre North Constituency and Nkhata bay Central constituency despite the high court ruling which found the appointment of the electoral body’s four commissioners by the former president Peter Mutharika as un constitution.

The court ordered a reconstitution of the electoral body within a period of seven days