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some trouble on the road: a manifestation of voter frustration in southern Malawi

20 May 2014

First: everyone doesn’t need to worry about me. I am fine and am being careful and mindful and am with friends who are looking out for me. With that caveat:

We met some small trouble on the road today. A makeshift roadblock by some young men who are upset about not being able to vote. There have been logistical challenges because the electoral commission was woefully unprepared and didn’t get all materials out to polling centers on time. In the southern region, for example, by 9:30AM, only 43% of polling centers had received all the materials (see MESN report released earlier with these details and more). Note that the polling centers were scheduled to open at 6:00am, meaning voters had been just waiting for as long as 3.5 hours, if not longer (many show up early to the polls).

Here is a photo of the roadblock after we made it through:

Makeshift roadblock at Machinjiri Turnoff, Chiradzulu District, Malawi. Taken by Kim Yi Dionne, May 20, 2014. All rights reserved.

Makeshift roadblock at Machinjiri Turnoff, Chiradzulu District, Malawi. Taken by Kim Yi Dionne, May 20, 2014. All rights reserved.

I gave them 1000 MWK and they moved the rocks and whatnot they had placed in the road.

Here is a video of the ringleader, making his demand for money:

He was saying that they were going to use the money to buy their own ballot papers. The ones meant to arrive at their polling center had not yet arrived when we were driving through around 11:00am.

This was in Chiradzulu, a southern district in Malawi. The specific area is known as Machinjiri Turnoff. It’s on the main road between Zomba and Limbe. It’s an area that Boniface Dulani and I predicted opposition candidate Peter Mutharika would have a strong lead.

There are also reports of makeshift roadblocks in Blantyre City, as well as reports of violence in various parts of Blantyre. Blantyre’s polling centers have had very long delays in receiving voting materials and there are reports that at least one center has still not received materials (now more than 10 hours after the center was to open).

I strongly believe violence could have been avoided with better electoral preparation. I would have never predicted violence in Malawi.

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