Guidelines for CSOs involved in civic and voter education

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has begun accrediting Civil Society Organizations (CSO) i.e Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) and Faith Based Organizations (FBO) to carry out civic and voter education exercise in readiness of the May 2019 Tripartite Elections.

The accreditation exercise begun last week at the MEC Head Office and Regional Offices in Lilongwe and Mzuzu and is expected to close on 20th April, 2017.

So far there has been a good response from the CSOs willing to be accredited. Last week  through this column we wrote about the process, we received a good feedback from our readers for timely informing them about this exercise the Commission is carrying out.

When the CSOs call to our Offices, they are being given a form which they are supposed to fill and return it thereafter. However for the CSOs to be accredited there are guidelines which the Commission follows when carrying the accreditation exercise.

From the onset let me mention that not all CSOs that submit their application forms get accredited. The Commission goes through a rigorous exercise of accrediting the CSOs. After receipt of an application form along with its accompanying documents such as certificate of registration by NGO board of Malawi, MEC in the exercise of its authority either accept or reject the application. If the application is accepted, MEC issues an official accreditation certificate to such organizations. It should be mentioned that the certificate Is not only for general elections, but as well as by-elections that may be conducted until another general elections.

For the rejected organization, the Commission informs them of its rejection.

 The list of accredited organizations is published in the newspapers and also posted on the MEC website. The Commission organized an orientation workshop for the accredited organization to familiarize them with the work they are supposed to carry out.

The accredited organizations enjoy freedom of movement throughout the country without prior permission or notification, however the Commission allocates areas where each CSO should work. For instance Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod carries out most of its activities in the Northern Region, in this regard the Commission allocates it in some of the districts in the northern region so that it can easily carry out the exercise since it is based there.

The accredited CSOs are expected to disseminate information based on materials and topics approved by the Commission. These information and topics are developed at a workshop which is organized by the Commission together with some of the accredited CSOs.

The CSOs are expected to interact in a non-partisan way with all political parties and other electoral stakeholders.

The CSOs are expected to respect the constitution of the Republic of Malawi, as well as the electoral laws and codes of conduct formulated by the Commission.

They are expected to exercise their roles with impartiality. They are supposed to identify themselves immediately, whenever necessary to MEC and at all times wear or otherwise permanently display their prescribed identification badges issued by their organizations when carry out the civic and voter education activities.

At the end of the exercise the CSOs are expected to write and present a report to the Commission, however in most cases after the general elections the CSOs disappear without submitting reports to the Commission.