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Malawi hopes to register seven million for elections

Malawi is hoping to enrol seven million people on to its new voters’ roll when registration for next year’s general election opens this month, electoral officials said on Thursday.

”We are targeting seven million voters. We will register afresh people for the elections,” said Fegus Lipenga, spokesperson for the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

The MEC, which will spend $50-million on the May 19 poll, will kick off a three-and-half-month phased registration exercise on August 18 in selected districts of the poor Southern African nation.

Registration will close on November 29 after covering the country’s 28 districts.

Lipenga said the registration ”will be staggered because we are using very expensive equipment that we purchased. It was not possible to procure equipment for each and every centre.”

He said a new voters’ electoral roll is being launched in a bid to avoid a repeat of a fiasco in 2004 elections, in which the number of registered voters dropped by one million after the High Court ordered an inspection of the lists.

That election was the third multiparty poll since the end of dictatorial rule 15 years ago.

The commission has launched a media blitz to attract the largely illiterate population of 13-million Malawians to register.

”We are urging all stakeholders to mobilise people to go in large numbers to register so that they are allowed to vote in 2009,” Lipenga said.

Former colonial power Britain has pledged $8-million to help fund the elections. Other donors and the United Nations Development Fund will also bankroll the vote.

Incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika faces a strong challenge from his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi.

Muluzi has been chosen as the Malawi opposition’s candidate in the presidential poll although he was constitutionally prohibited from running again after he served two terms from 1994.

He wrested power from dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country’s first democratic poll in 1994. — Sapa-AFP

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