/ 18 August 2008

Slow start to Malawi voter registration

A massive nationwide drive in Malawi to get up to seven million citizens on to a fresh voters’ register ahead of a general election next May got off to a slow start on Monday.

”Registration has started although the process to register is a bit slow,” Fegus Lipenga, spokesperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), said.

Dozens of people started queuing when registration centres opened at 8am local time in Blantyre, the commercial capital.

MEC chairperson Anastazia Msosa said they hope to register ”between five to seven million voters”.

”I was here at 7am, but one needs to be patient in order to complete the process because it takes over 30 minutes for one to complete,” said David Chirambo, flashing a laminated voter’s card, which has become his identity card.

Chimangeni Phiri, an electoral official at Kanjedza Primary School in a Blantyre township, said: ”It is a bit slow to register but we hope to pick up as we go along.”

The exercise is scheduled to end on November 29 in all the nation’s 28 districts.

President Bingu wa Mutharika, in power since 2004, faces a strong challenge from his predecessor and mentor Bakili Muluzi, chosen as the opposition candidate despite being constitutionally barred from contesting.

Muluzi had served two terms, from 1994 when he wrested power from dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country’s first democratic poll.

The 2009 poll will be the third multiparty vote since the end of Banda’s dictatorial rule 14 years ago. — Sapa-AFP