starts in April
The Malawi Electoral Commission will compile a new voters roll for the 2009 elections, an exercise that will start in April and be completed in December, Mec has said.
MEC spokesperson Fegus Lipenga said the exercise would start early and expected to finish in December to give the Commission enough time to correct the mistakes which would be incurred during the registration exercise.
Lipenga said Mec has decided to discard the old voters roll the country has used for over a decade because it has a lot of anomalies.
"The MEC is not cleaning up the voters roll. The voters roll used during the 2004 elections will be discarded because it had so many problems," he said.
Lipenga said among other things that in the old voters' roll a lot of names were either missing or mispelt and that there was just a lot of incorrect information which would be difficult to rectify.
"We have started early to give ourselves enough time to rid the voter’s roll of the mistakes made during registration and we expect the voters' roll to be ready by the end of the year," he said.
United Democratic Front (UDF) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) welcomed the development while Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said they would consult Mec to appreciate the need for the exercise. Aford
UDF newly-appointed spokesperson Mary Kaphwereza Banda said the issue of voters' roll has nothing to do with political parties.
"UDF is aware of the impending new voters roll but this issue is about the country as a whole, and not political parties," she said. She hoped the exercise will be done smoothly.
DPP Publicity Secretary Nicholas Dausi said although the party has not been approached on the issue, his party expects Mec to come up with convincing reasons for discarding the old voters' roll.
"We have not been consulted and we will tell them our opinion once they consult us," said Dausi.
Deputy Publicity Secretary of Aford Kingsley Jere said said the idea is good but warned MEC to expedite the exercise so that the commission is not caught up in a mix of so many other activities that MEC has line up.
But Executive Director of Malawi Watch Billy Banda expressed surprise at the development saying what MEC wants to do contradicts what the organization has proposed in the election law amendment bill.
"In the amendment bill they are asking government to reduce the number of days for registration from 14 days to seven days. If that bill is passed are they going to finish the new registration within seven days?" Banda queried.
He said MEC should be mindful that the country does not have a register for national identity adding that discarding the voters' roll would give an opportunity to some unscrupulous illegal foreigners to legitimize their stay in the country by registering as Malawians.
"At least with an old voters roll, they have a starting point but starting a new one will be brewing trouble. Do they have resources and capacity to check who is an eligible Malawian voter? At least with the old roll they would be able to check older people who are not registered and determine whether one is a Malawian. There is room for rigging here," he said.