16 March 2014

Malawi: Voters Empowered to Report Irregularities

Blantyre — For the first time ever Malawians would be accorded a chance to report any election anomalies happening in their area on the voting day through their mobile phones.

Project Coordinator for the Malawi Elections Information Centre (MEIC), Joseph Maele, revealed this to journalists on Friday at a media orientation workshop on the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools during elections.

He said all Malawian citizens would have a chance to send a Short Message Service (sms) to report a particular incident for example lack of voter materials or violence or anything concerning elections for free to 56342.

"We will have all stakeholders in one place at MEIC Election Situation Room (ESR). This will include a MEC official and the police among others.

"We will be forwarding the irregularities to concerned stakeholder and that way people will be assisted rapidly," he said.

According to MEIC, ESR is an initiative that provides a platform where Civil Society Organisations collaborate on elections observation, monitoring and rapid response and proactive advocacy.

"This form of collaboration makes efficient use of resources and enhances CSOs members' capabilities to ensure a transparent, fair and peaceful tripartite election in Malawi," says information sourced from its website.

Maele was quick to point out that MEIC will not just go ahead to put the said report forward to the concerned stakeholders but will first verify with its observers who will be deployed across the country.

Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) board chairperson, Lewis Msiyadungu said this initiative was learnt from other countries such as Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe where it assisted in reducing tension, anxiety and prevent post election violence since people's issues were solved rapidly by policy makers.

"This is a golden opportunity to the nation for the people to know that elections will be held in a free and accountable manner. The tripartite elections are important to us since they will set the agenda for the country for the next 50 years to come," he noted.

According to Msiyadungu, the project embraces different stakeholders and electoral stakeholders comprising MESM (which is the legal holder), NICE, MISA-Malawi, Human Rights Consultative Committee, Malawi Law Commission, Livingstonia Synod, Nkhoma Synod, Chinansi Foundation, Malawi Police Service and MEC.

He disclosed that the organizations have already made arrangements with mobile service providers on the issue and assures the general public that issues of network congestion may not be a problem.

In her presentation, SMAG media representative, Racheal Chavula, said she was hopeful that Malawians would understand this since it concerns everyone.

"See how people are engaged in radio programmes or sms yet they use their own airtime.

"Now with this free service, this is an enabling platform for them to express their democratic rights and they will surely respond to that," she said.

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