April 6, 2004

Election preparations on track

Funds from international donors will ease the task of organising the general elections, in which six million people are registered to vote. The European Union (EU) is donating US $2.4 million to a trust fund administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Norway has contributed US $1.5 million and Britain US $750,000. The resources are expected to support the "registration of voters, cleaning up the voters roll, equipping polling stations, and making arrangements for elections observers", UNDP said in a statement. The funds are part of a broader donor initiative that is providing $5.1 million of the $14 million budgeted for the 19 May elections. Donors said they were pleased with the preparations thus far: during a recent registration drive the staff trained by Malawi's Electoral Commission were well prepared, and the centres were peaceful and well managed. There had also been no incidents of "overt political interference or violence".

Six candidates are vying for the presidential post, and 116 women are among the candidates for 193 National Assembly seats. It will be the third time Malawians will vote under a multiparty system since the end of Hastings Kamuzu Banda's rule in 1994. President Bakili Muluzi took over from Dr. Banda and was re-elected in 1999. (United Nations Development Programme, New York)

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