(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

MALAWI: Election date likely to change again

Malawi's general elections slated for 25 May could be postponed due to snags in the registration process, a spokesman for the country's electoral commission told IRIN on Thursday.

"No official decision has been taken as yet. A final decision will mostlikely be made by Monday," the spokesman said. If a deferment is ordered,it would mark the second postponement of the polls originally scheduled for 17 May.

The electoral official said the commission is considering extending the registration period, which would have a bearing on the polling date. The exercise is supposed to end on 3 May, but has been hampered by a shortage of film and cameras, which has delayed the issuing of registration cards.

"In terms of the Malawi constitution the registration process has to be completed within in 21 days of the polling date. Logically then if the registration exercise is extended then the polling date has to then be postponed as well," a political analyst told IRIN. Parliament would also have to reconvene to approve the new election date.

The country's main opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party, is reported to have written to the commission asking for a deferment. The PANA news agency quoted the party's second vice president, Peter Chiona as saying: "Extension of the registration period has serious repercussions on the period of verification and reconciliation of (voter) registers and,
in turn, the polling date."

According to the electoral commission, so far an estimated 3.7 million people have been registered. Malawi has a population of about 9 million people, with 5 million eligible to vote. "The figure of 3.7 million is not too disappointing. We are getting there slowly but surely," the spokesman said.

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