CSOs this is your time to shine!
It is now a well known fact that the Malawi Electoral Commission is going to conduct by-elections on 01 November, 2016 in Mchinji West Constituency, Kaliyeka Ward in Lilongwe, Bunda Ward in Kasungu, Bembeke Ward in Dedza and Sadzi Ward in Zomba. The procedure for conducting these by-elections remains the same, starting with launch of the by-elections at constituency and ward level on 03 October, 2016. Registration is from 12 up 16 October 2016 and it is only for those that have turned the age of 18 since the May 20, 2014 Tripartite Elections or will be 18 on the polling day which is 01 November, 2016, then presentation of forms for nominated candidates on 17 October 2016. Campaign shall start from 20 to 30 October, 2016, then polling on 01 November, 2016.
However, previous by-elections have been marred with low turn-out. While it is the mandate of the Commission to conduct by-elections, the Commission is always saddened with the low turnout on the polling day. Conduct of by-elections is a drain on public resources and we are all not strangers to how constrained our resource envelope has become in recent years.
There has been talk by the general public that the low turnout of eligible voters on polling day is as a result of inadequate civic and voter education. Well, it should be mentioned that Malawi Electoral Commission do take pride in discharging its duties and on its part it makes sure that it conducts massive civic and voter education. However as has always been the case the Commission works with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), it accredited to conduct civic and education activities in the areas where elections are taking place.
These CSOs also have a responsibility to conduct civic and voter education even during by-elections. We have a lot of CSOs mushrooming during General Elections period yet they disappear once the elections are over. The Commission do involve electoral stakeholders at all levels of elections, as such it expects CSOs too, to partner with MEC during by-elections in conducting civic and voter education.
The job of civic and voter education for elections is just too big to be left to MEC alone, its capacity can be overwhelmed and that is why CSOs become very crucial partners in this endeavor. Their presence and structures across the country and expertise are much needed this time.
The CSOs need to play an active role during registration and verification exercise which from 12 October up to 16 November, 2016 as well as mobilizing eligible voter to go and vote on 01 November, 2016.
It is the desire of the Electoral Commission to see that CSOs are also taking part in the by-elections. If we work together, we can achieve more. Resources will be put to maximum use; efforts will not go in vain. Let us together make the forthcoming by-elections a success story.
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