MEC urged to be more vigilant during voters roll verification

MEC Chairperson Justice Mbendera

MEC Chairperson Justice Mbendera

As the expedition towards the tripartite elections in Malawi draws closer some experts have asked the stakeholders in the electoral process to be tactical enough to detect any possible foul during inspection of the preliminary voters roll.

The exercise rolls off next month, but the call comes in the wake of news that had spread about certain people either snatching voter registration certificates of others or taking down details of the certificates for no apparent reason, and that there were also reports of theft of voter registration materials.

“Considering that the voting patern in most areas can be guessed right, it is right that we talk of a possible tact that some could employ in getting names of the owners of the cards deleted on the voters roll claiming that they passed away just to reduce the voting power of their opponents,” observed a Blantyre based former Malawi Army soldier now in security consultancy.

Newstime Africa understands that during the verification period people are required to declare deaths of registered voters for deregistering, a move the security consultant is wary of hence the alarm that electoral officials should be more alert.

It is the understanding of MEC that relatives can bring the voter certificate of the deceased and a death certificate or letter from a village head or church leader testifying about the death.

“In Malawi we are basically all related and having had cases of people using either fake or fraudulently obtained death certificates or documents for different purposes, we need to be more careful so that no person necessitates the deletion of a living registered voter for a set agenda,” said the concerned security consultant who did not want to be mentioned by name.

In his line of thinking, the security expert suggested that there should either be more than one document certifying the death, or that the notification document should bear signatures and names of people in different authority and not just from one area.

He added: “It should not just be one document like a death certificate, letter from the tradition leader or church but a combination and the person bringing the information should also have his or her details taken down so that the law should follow him or her when it is discovered that it was a fluke.”

As part of its effort to make the forthcoming tripartite elections free, fair and credible, the Malawi Electoral Commission has included in the electoral calendar a period for registered voters to verify the correctness of their details in the voters’ roll and that names of those who passed away after they had already registered be spiked off the list if information reaches the Commission.

“The Commission has planned that the inspection of the voters roll should take place from 24 – 28th March 2014. The Commission will re-open all registration centers across the nation and all changes will be processed there and then,” the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera has disclosed in a statement made available to Newstime Africa.

During the same period those who lost their certificates will be given duplicate certificates, and they only need to go to the centre where they registered and report about the missing voter certificate.

If verified that the details of the person exist in the register, a supervisor will issue a duplicate voter certificate which will be used on the voting day.

And if the name of the person will not be found in the register, the supervisor will check in the permanent record book used during registration, and where the name is not found in the permanent record book it shall be deemed that that particular person did not register.

The period also gives a chance to those who might have changed places of permanent residence to the extent that they will be unable to go and vote to the centre they registered to process transfers.

“When centres open these registrants should just go to the centre where they wish to cast their vote and ask the supervisor to transfer them to that centre,” reads the statement.

Those processing transfers will be required to produce their voter certificates to facilitate the transfer, otherwise the Commission has put its foot down that without voter certificate, and the transfer will not be processed to avoid the risk of transferring wrong persons.

MEC has however warned people who think they can play around with the stolen electoral materials that they will be dealt with accordingly.

“Anyone who comes for voter verification with voter certificates not in our database will be asked to explain where they got them by the Police,” the Justice Mbendera warned.

Being a crucial exercise, MEC has called upon political parties and candidates to remind and encourage the electorate to participate in the voters roll verification exercise.

“This is the opportunity for the public to know that they will take part in the elections through voting for candidates of their choice.

“As we prepare for elections the Commission needs the support of all stakeholders for this to be a success. Let me call upon political parties and all interested stakeholders to monitor and observe the process,” MEC Chairperson told the gathering, whom he also asked to appoint monitors who are literate, numerate and able to follow the process objectively.

Among others, the National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) fourth conference, which is deemed as a meeting place for the Commission and electoral stakeholders as they prepare for the 2014 Tripartite Elections, attracted secretary generals and directors of campaign of political parties and representatives of development partners.

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