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Malawi Electoral Commission laments delayed reforms

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has said the decision on whether to use the biometric system of voting or not during the 2019 tripartite elections depends on the speed with which the Special Law Commission, Ministry of Justice and Parliament handle electoral reform proposals submitted in January this year.

Malawi wants to change from Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) system of voting which has been in use since 1994 to Biometric Voter Registration (BVR).

The system, which is among the reforms the electoral body presented to the Special Law Commission (SLC), was abandoned at the eleventh hour during the May 2014 elections due to time factor among others.

Tuesday, Commissioner Jean Mathanga who chairs the Electoral Services Committee at Mec said the commission is at a crossroads considering the fact that National Registration Bureau (NRB) which was supposed to provide data for the system from the national registration exercise it is conducting is behind schedule.

“Government and other stakeholders advised us to use NRB data but they are behind schedule with almost eight months. We are still engaging them to see whether we can use data from their system,” said Mathanga on the sidelines of a tripartite meeting between Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), Mec and Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) in Mzuzu on non legislative electoral reforms.

She said the commission was supposed to take a stand on the 2019 system of voting by September end but the decision has been shifted to October end this year.

“If nothing tangible comes out, then as a commission, we will have to source finances to build our own data for the biometric system of voting in 2019,” Mathanga said.

Mesn Chairperson Steve Duwa said as stakeholders, they had envisioned that by the end of this year the reforms would have been with Parliament.

“We would have loved if the original arrangement was followed whether some bills would have been presented in Parliament at least by February 2017. We may not need to implement everything in the reforms but prioritising would work better in the scenario we are in,” Duwa said.

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