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Former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, and Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Linford Andrews, observing the voting process

Commonwealth Observers watching the voting process in Malawi

Observers deployed across Malawi as voting begins in tripartite elections

21 May 2019

Polling stations have opened across Malawi.

As dawn broke, people queued to exercise their democratic right to choose a president, members of parliament and local councillors.

It's the first time Malawi has used a biometric voter register.  Biometric data, including photographs, is being used to confirm identities, along with information such as names and dates-of-birth.  Nearly seven million people are eligible to vote and more than half are women.  

A team from the Commonwealth, led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, are on ground in the three regions of the country observing the voting process.

President Mbeki arrived before the stipulated opening time of 6.00 am to observe pre-opening, opening of polls and voting procedures at the Blantyre Tax Office, where people were waiting in line to vote. 

He said: “It’s good to see everyone so eager to cast their ballot. It means the people of Malawi are ready to choose their leaders and we as the Commonwealth Observer Group are here to support the people as they go out to exercise their franchise.”

Priscilla Chukai 87, who was being assisted to vote, was encouraged by the presence of observers in her polling unit. “Thank you to all observers for coming to Malawi," she said.

Voters are greeted by presiding officers sitting at tables, before being processed and directed towards three cardboard voting booths - one for local councillors, one for members of parliament and the other for the president.

Successful candidates - elected using a 'first-past-the post' system - will serve terms of five years.

Ballots are being cast at 5,002 polling stations in 193 constituencies across 28 administrative districts. There are provisions and the law to assist voters who are elderly or disabled.

Ahead of polls opening, the 12-member Commonwealth Observer Group received briefings from the electoral commission, political parties, police, independent institutions, civil society and the diplomatic community.

The polls will close at 6.00 pm and counting will begin immediately.  The Malawi Electoral Commission has up to eight days to announce results.