By Stephen Dakalira:
The long wait finally ended Tuesday as Malawians lined up in their large numbers to cast their votes in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, despite a few setbacks threatening to disturb the process earlier in the day.
As we went to press, results had started trickling in at the main tally centre at Chichiri Conference Centre Hall in Blantyre, with candidates and electorates keeping their fingers crossed on the outcome of the elections.
Vice-President and UTM leader Saulos Chilima was stunned to discover that his name was missing on the voters roll at St Thomas Polling Station in Lilongwe where he had registered, apparently after his details were transferred several kilometres away to Chitepo School at Chizumulu Island in Likoma.
Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, confirmed the development at a press briefing in Blantyre but was quick to point out that Chilima was allowed to vote.
“We have allowed the veep [Vice President] to vote because we, as Mec, are aware that his name is on the ballot paper. The anomaly happened when we were making transfers and we have identified the registration kit involved and staff who did this. We are probing to establish motive,” she said.Advertisement
Mec Chief Executive Officer, Sam Alfandika, said Chilima did not apply to have his details transferred to Likoma.
“In fact, it was a biometric voter registration clerk who did this; it was one of those temporary staff we hired…we have his particulars and we will get to the bottom of the issue,” Alfandika said.
Speaking after voting, Chilima said he was calm as he knew that he was eligible to vote at the centre.
“No pressure,” he said.
According to Ansah, Mec dispatched all materials to polling centres on May 19 and 20, stressing that presiding officers were supposed to alert the commission wherever there were items missing or any anomaly.
“All voters are being encouraged to ensure that the ballots they are given are signed or initialled at the back by the polling staff. Even if not signed, it does not mean the vote is null and void,” she said.
She said some people ended up confusing their polling stations with centres they registered at for their national ID, citing a case at Blantyre Girls Primary School, where a woman was turned back as she did not register there for the polling exercise but for ID.
Voting in most districts started at 6am and was expected to close at 6pm, though Ansah said, in areas where centres opened late, the time-frame would be adjusted upwards.
There were 5,002 polling centres which accommodated 6.8 million voters, with 3.7 million being the youth.
Seven candidates including Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi Congress Party), John Chisi (Umodzi Party), Peter Mutharika (Democratic Progressive Party), Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Development) and Atupele Muluzi (United Democratic Front) faced off.
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