17 April 2019

Malawi: MEC Urges CSOs to Gang Up for Voter Education, Flood Survivors in Camps to Vote

pic by Wallace Chipeta

Lilongwe, April 17, 2019. Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Tuesday asked accredited Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to team up towards supporting and implementing civic and voter education activities ahead of May 21 tripartite elections to attain high voter turnout and reduce null and void votes.

MEC's Chairperson for Finance and Administration, Commissioner, Linda Kunje made the request at Platinum Hotel in Lilongwe during Electoral Stakeholders' Consultative meeting organized by National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) with support from European Union (EU).

"The reports from the 2014 tripartite elections pointed out that there was inadequate civic and voter education by Civil Society Organizations.

The coming (tripartite) elections are definitive. If we do not hold hands and harness our efforts to draw synergies, we can find ourselves with a situation more retrogressive than of 2014," she said.

Kunje added that, "In 2009 a total of 43 women made it to Parliament, there was massive civic and voter education. In 2014 everyone wished that the figure should increase. But lo and behold, we engaged the reverse gear."

She said the choice was with CSOs and all other stakeholders including ministries of civic education and information to take action to ensure less civic and voter education would not be a reason for low turnout during May 2019 elections.

"We have had cases whereby interventions have come in late. Let us plan better for this remaining time up to the Election Day and beyond. You do not wish to donate blankets after winter is gone," advised the commissioner," the Commissioner explained.

She appealed to CSOs, especially those with financial hiccups, to use 193 Constituency Civic and Voter Education Assistants (CCVEAs) that the commission engaged, as resource persons alongside bonanza at grassroots level.

NICE Executive Director, Ollen Mwalubunju said CSOs should seriously target people that are illiterate and those living in hard to reach areas to educate them on how to mark correctly on the ballot paper and motivate them to vote.

He appealed to CSOs, MEC and other electoral stakeholders to harmonize human, material and financial resources to,as a group, reach many registered voters with electoral messages aimed at persuading them to vote in large numbers.

Mwalubunju said that, "MEC is not alone, there are a number of avenues to take part in mobilization of voters. We have faith communities, traditional, politicaland religious leaders, government extension services, primary schools that we can support with relevant electoral materials to persuade registered people to vote."

On whether flood survivors in camps will be given opportunity to vote, MECDirector of Voter and Civic Education, Lydia Luwanika said the electoral body asked the District Commissioners to come up with statistics of registered flood survivors in camps so that MEC devises mechanisms to accord them chance to vote by erecting tents where they registered to vote but displaced.

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