Ahmed Dassu calls for Chief Justice to oversee vote recount

Before the Malawi Electoral Commission ( MEC) proceeds to conducting a physical recount, it needs to restore the integrity of the counting process itself. This cannot be achieved unless the reasons leading to the suspension and the recount are first determined and fully addressed.

After all an illness cannot be treated unless the disease is first identified for without the confidence of every political party in the electoral process being carried by MEC vein restored, we will remain with the potential for disharmony, even violence.

We are faced with a unique scenario where President Joyce Banda has unconstitutionally issued an ordnance to annul the elections, the DPP is demanding that as its leader Peter Mutharika has won he should be sworn in as President, the MCP saying that Dr Lazarous Chakwera is leading and UDF demanding the resignation of MEC chair Justice Maxon Mbendera.

Dassu (lef) with former Namibian President Dr Sam Nujoma who is heading an African Union delegation, which is observing elections in Malawi
Dassu (lef) with former Namibian President Dr Sam Nujoma who is heading an African Union delegation, which is observing elections in Malawi

This widely differing positions illustrate one common factor which is that the MEC if not already is fast losing the confidence of the major 4 political parties and therefore it is imperative that MEC should create the enabling environment for all parties to accept the final outcome. Which is to restore its own integrity and that of the ballots and the counting process.

But a prerequisite for restoring the integrity of MEC would be for Justice Mbendera, to immediately resign as Chairman of MEC, and have Chief Justice Anastansia Msosa, who has overseen successful elections in the past, to see through the process of the recount.

The recount process should first and foremost determine what has led to the political parties questioning the conduct of the electoral process, and what has led to the counting and tallying process to be suspended by MEC. Because for days Justice Mbendera has been assuring Malawian voters that there was noting wrong with the process.

To restore confidence in the counting and tallying process it may be necessary to replace some MEC officials, including returning officers who are found to be responsible for the anomalies.

In the meanwhile MEC should proceed urgently to move all the ballot boxes under security and accompanied by representatives of major parties using army helicopters to a central counting centre where the counting must be overseen by , party representatives and independent auditors and the results announced only after the votes have been counted, tallied and a clear winner emerges.

The Presidential and constituency votes need to be counted and tallied and the successful candidates announced before proceeding to counting the votes for councillors. For it is imperative that the counting process enjoys the confidence of all political parties and the Malawian voter, otherwise we will have a flawed election.

In the meantime, President Banda should not issue ordnances, or dismiss or appoint anyone,The security agencies should also be required to restrict access to the ballot boxes and counting centres of two persons in particular who were widely reported in online media to be involved in rigging before the elections, because the same two persons were also widely reported to be involved in rigging in the 2009 elections, one of whom is closely associated with master rigger of elections Vernon Mwanga of Zambia for there can be no smoke without fire.

• Ahmed Dassu is a Malawian UK based governance campaigner

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