By Jordan Simeon-Phiri & Elijah Phompho, MEC Stringers
National Registration Bureau (NRB) has finally heeded the call that the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament made a week ago to have national ID registration centres closer to people to enable them to register.
During a visit by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah SC at Mitole Primary School in Chikwawa North Constituency where she inspected voter registration exercise, it transpired that the absence of NRB services was preventing people without national IDs identity cards from registering unlike ahead of the May 2019 Tripartite Elections where they were being registered first by the NRB right on the center before being enrolled in the voters register.
It was observed that this forced prospective voters in Chikwawa to travel long distances from their respective registration centers to access ID registration services at the District Council.
Speaking in an interview, NRB’s spokesperson Norman Fulatira said they responded positively to the to have every eligible Malawians registered so that they in turn exercise their constitutional right to vote.
However, the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, Kezzie Msukwa expressed worry over NRBs delay, saying it is now a week since voter registration exercise began.
“While we commend NRB for heeding the call, we feel there are some people who might not register because they did not have an opportunity to register at the District Council due to distance.
“My hope is that there will be room for extension to make up for the lost days,” Msukwa said.
But MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the initial arrangement is that after the national ID mass registration exercise, everyone goes to the DCs office or any designated post office to register.
“As MEC we feel the remaining seven days are enough for people to register for IDs. Therefore, my appeal is that people should utilize this chance to register otherwise we cannot extend the registration exercise,” Mwafulirwa said.
The first phase of voter registration, which started on April 4 is under way up to April 17 in Chitipa, Karonga, Salima, Dedza, Blantyre, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts.
Meanwhile, MEC Commissioner, Ambassador Yahaya Mmadi has said that successful implementation of the 50+1 electoral law set for the July 2 fresh presidential elections shall require more people in the country to register and vote in large numbers should the president assent to the electoral amendment bills once retabled by Parliament.
The National Assembly is expected to retable the electoral amendment bills with a provision for the winner on the presidential ticket to be determined by more than half of the total votes cast with an intention that the president shall assent to the bills once presented to him having earier rejected them.
But addressing a group of Senior Group Village headmen (GVH) under Traditional Authority (TA) Maseya in Chikwawa on Saturday, Commissioner Mmadi said even though the president would assent to the electoral amendment bills, it will be difficult for a presidential candidate to satisfy the 50+1 requirement during the first round if only a few number of people register and vote.
Commissioner Mmadi continued by saying if few people register and vote in the presidential elections, and that no presidential candidate accumulates more than half of the total votes cast, it shall necessitate second round of voting, thereby incurring extra costs.
He, therefore, called upon chiefs in the country to be in the forefront mobilising their subjects to make sure they register and vote in the fresh presidential polls.
Mmadi also asked the chiefs to warn their subjects from selling their national IDs, saying doing so is tantamount to selling their birth right of choosing a leader of their choice.