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By-elections voter apathy haunts Malawi Electoral Commission

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The voter apathy in by-elections of recent years has forced the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to launch the October 17 by-elections with a strong voting appeal to eligible voters in the six concerned constituencies and council wards.

Speaking during the launch of the Lilongwe City South East Constituency by-election yesterday, Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, said the experience shows that many people faithfully patronise political rallies but few people turn up during the polling day.

Ansah appealed to political leaders, civil society organisations, the media and all stakeholders to support the electoral body in dealing with the voter apathy challenge.

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“Please, encourage all concerned people to show their love for the party and candidates by voting and not only attending rallies,” Ansah said.

Lilongwe City South East Constituency fell vacant after the Supreme Court of Appeal nullified the May 2014 parliamentary election results for the area due to irregularities that marred the process.

One of the constituents even asked Mec officials during the launch on how the voters can trust the electoral body that announced irregular results in 2014.

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In response, Ansah said there are some administrative reforms that Mec has adopted to ensure that results are not tampered with and all parties get satisfied with the final score.

“The results will be pasted on the notice boards at each centre and thereafter transferred to the constituency tally centre where they will also be announced before taking them to the national tally centre for the official announcement.

“We have also amended the results sheet to ensure that the results are recorded in both figures and words as we do with the cheque. All this is to ensure that the results that will be announced are universally accepted,” Ansah said.

National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) District Education Officer for Lilongwe urban, Hajra Ali, said her organisation is ready to roll out massive civic education in the areas to ensure that many people turn up to vote.

MCP Director of Elections, Maxwell Thyolera, whose party candidate, Ulemu Msungama, lodged a legal battle against 2014 results, said the party expects that the administrative reforms will ensure acceptable results.

Apart from encouraging parties and candidates to maintain peace during the election period, Mec has also called for the inclusion of women candidates in the by-elections.

The women empowerment drive, however, may not be achieved in Lilongwe City South East Constituency as strong contenders, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party(DPP) already identified Reuben Ngwenya as its torchbearer while the main opposition is likely to feature Msungama as its candidate.

DPP’s Bentley Namasasu, who was announced a lawmaker out of the 2014 nullified election, is expected to be an independent candidate after losing to Ngwenya in party primaries.

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