The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Election Observer Mission to the 21st May, 2019 Tripartite Elections in Malawi has recommended to Malawi Government to consider declaring the voting day a public holiday in order to allow voters ample time to vote.
The Mission said this during presentation of its preliminary statement in Lilongwe on Thursday.
COMESA Electoral Observer Mission Team Leader, Hope Kivengere said despite voters going to work on the polling day, a public holiday would be ideal for the voters to exercise their right to vote freely.
“While the Government issued a directive that employers should allow employees time to go and cast their vote, the Mission recommends that in future government may consider declaring voting day a public holiday,” she said.
Recently the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) issued a statement which encouraged all registered voters to exercise their right to vote and not declaring the day a public holiday.
“Polling day is not gazetted as a public holiday. However, Heads of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are thereby requested to put in place proper arrangements for employees to go and cast their votes at their respective polling stations,” read the statement in part signed by Chief Secretary to the Government, Lloyd Muhara.
A spot check by Malawi News Agency (MANA) on voting day showed that despite the communication most government MDAs were partially closed on voting day with mostly security guards present who took turns to vote.
Even business in the capital city’s Old Town was halted as most shops, save for banks and super markets, were closed.
Some quarters share COMESA’s views for a public holiday on voting day arguing it is imperative to give chance to citizens to cast their votes without being disturbed.
Malawi on Tuesday 21st May went to polls in 25 years since it embraced multiparty system of government to elect ward counselors, members of parliament and the president.
The COMESA Electoral Observer Mission deployed observers in all the three regions of Malawi to observe the electoral process including voting and counting.
It is expected that the mission will release the final report within three months after the official announcement of the electoral results.