Chaos mars start of Malawian 2014 tripartite poll

By Dumisani Moyo | May 21st, 2014
Late opening of polling stations, missing ballot papers and voters’ registers characterised voting in Malawi today as voters queued-up to cast their ballots in Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections across the country.
 
A statement from the Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN), Steve Duwa, confirmed to journalists in Blantyre this morning that “most polling stations opened as late as 09h00 this morning instead of 06h00”.
 
“Most centres such as Mtantha in Mzimba had not opened as late 09h30 with most complaints being registered in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe” said Duwa adding that the MESN had received 14,047 messages from its trained observers and 4,410 from its citizen journalism platform. “Of the 386 polling stations observed, 67 opened on time representing 17% of the polling stations observed,” he said.
Duwa also confirmed that MESN had received reports that there was rioting in some areas of the southern region such as Blantyre, specifically at the Blantyre Girls Secondary School, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Chirimba Township and Machinjiri where polling stations reportedly opened late.
 
The MESN press statement said irate citizens had blocked the road to Chikwakwa Central.
 
But at polling stations that opened on time long queues of voters firmed in the poll in which candidates are contesting the presidency against southern Africa’s first female President, Joyce Banda who ascended to power on 07 April 2012.
 
A total of 7,470,806 have registered to vote after MEC revised the figure downwards by 66,742 voters after a clean-up of the voters’ register.
 
Malawi Electoral Commission spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in an interview yesterday in the commercial capital of Blantyre that the errors resulted from miscalculations and deaths of some voters.
 
The voting was to officially start at 06h00 and end at 18 hours. People gathered to cast their votes around 05h00 in polling stations in Blantyre City South and Chiradzulu constituencies which are the biggest in Malawi.
 
 President Banda’s biggest challenger is Lazarus Chakwera who quit his evangelism work last year to head the liberation party, the Malawi Congress Party that fought for the country’s independence from the British colony.
 
With regional voting taking root in Malawi, Chakwera is favoured to win because he is the only candidate out of the big four who hails from the Northern region while the rest— Peter Wamutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Joyce Banda are all from the Southern region.
 
Further, President Banda who grew up in a village in southern Malawi, has been ambushed by allegations of a cash scandal in which US$15 million was found in the car of a senior government official.
 
More than 80 people have been arrested and a former cabinet minister was dismissed and put on trial for money laundering and attempted murder.
  
Story courtesy of Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF). Story by Patson Phiri and additional reporting by the SAEF secretariat
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