One of Malawi’s leading human rights non-governmental organisation Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has hailed Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) recent decision to conduct a manual recount of ballot papers in last week’s presidential, parliamentary and local elections.
The watchdog said the decision is justified considering the prevailing serious irregularities that have marred the voting process.
MEC Chairperson Maxon Mbendera told MBC radio that the MEC has discovered “grave and serious anomalies, such as in Mangochi there were about 39,000 registered voters but over 180,000 voted.
Commissioner Rev Emmanuel Chimkwita Phiri said while the current counting would proceed, a physical audit vote count would ensue whose results would eventually be compared with the current counting before final decisions are made by MEC in consultation with all political parties.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, CHRR Executive Director Timothy Mtambo applauded MEC for arriving at such a decision which, according to him, would strengthen the acceptance of the election outcome by all key stakeholders amidst growing claims of fraud.
“We would like to commend MEC for arriving at such a bold decision in the best interest of all Malawians. In such a highly contested election where every vote counts, it was always going to be crucial for the commission to address all emerging irregularities with utmost prompt especially in a scenario where you have credible evidence as is the case where numbers of votes exceed those of registered.
“By taking such a step to address the prevailing grievances’, we at CHRR are hopeful that this will strengthen the validity or acceptance of the election outcome by all key stakeholders where the cloud of suspicion is cleared in the general interest of all Malawians. Otherwise, in the absence of such a step it was always going to be difficult to describe this year’s election as free, credible and fair” said Mtambo.
CHRR Executive Director advised all key stakeholders to observe patience, peace, tolerance and unity as the Commission is doing its job.
“While all Malawians are eager to know the outcome of the election, it is important at this level to exercise utmost patience, peace, tolerance and unity by allowing MEC to do its job thoroughly. I think as a nation, we should also be more concerned with having a more credible or quality election result outcome, results which would be accepted by all” said Mtambo.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya told Nyasa Times from Geneva, Switzerland that the decision to have a vote recount is “very welcome as it will add credibility to the process.”
He said: “It has raised serious questions about concerns that were raised in the past by stakeholders and which were not given due attention. hopefully this will lead to electoral reform that includes adopting a biometric system that would easily detect any anomalies related to inflated figures, duplicate voting etc.
“Excuses about costs no longer hold water. Malawi has to commit to improving the nature and scope of the entire electoral process.”
Mbendera said through the results management system, the commission identified 19 polling centers of the 1,333 processed, “where the number of votes cast at polling centers have exceeded the number of registered voters at the polling centers.”
He said the results will be investigated through the commission’s audit systems.
It will take 25 days to recount manually, said the MEC chairperson.