Britain says no credible evidence of rigging as Malawi go to polls

Britain has echoed the statement by European Union  (EU) delegation in Malawi ruling  out chances of rigging as Malawians start queuing to vote in the presidential, parliamentary  councilors elections this Tuesday.

Four of the 12 candidates in the presidential race have a chance of winning. Thy are preacher-turned-politician Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Atupele Muluzi representing the United Democratic Front (UDF), Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the incumbent Joyce Banda representing the People’s Party (PP).

Allegations of vote-rigging plots by ruling PP have been rife although President Banda has rejected them.

British High Commissioner in Lilongwe, Michael Nevin
British High Commissioner in Lilongwe, Michael Nevin

Malawi-based diplomats say the problem does not appear to be as big as Banda’s challengers make out.

“We have seen no credible evidence of rigging,” British High Commissioner Michael Nevin is quoted by Reuters report .

“The electoral commission has, overall and up to now, done a fair job. They have made, and they probably will make, mistakes – but that doesn’t mean that there is rigging or manipulation,” he said.

MEC chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera told the BBC they have taken every step to ensure they are well-prepared.

He dismissed allegations of rigging as “rumour-mongering” and said he was confident the elections will be free and fair.

EU head of delegation Alexander Baum, whose delegation has brought in an independent EU Electoral Observer Mission which started work two weeks ago, said the EU expected the elections to be conducted in a professional and impartial manner.

“On the rumours of rigging, I think the danger of that happening is rather limited. We expect hiccups, because no elections can go without challenges. Logistically, it’s a complex process so we don’t expect the elections to be 100 percent perfect,” Baum told The Nation newspaper.

Church groups fear outbreaks of violence in the normally peaceful country if  President Banda,  southern Africa’s first female head of state, who came to power two years ago, wins, while opposition parties may continue to pursue claims of fraudulent elections.

Hundreds of local and international observers are monitoring the vote. Malawi uses the first-past-the post electoral system – the presidential candidate with the most votes is declared the winner and there is no provision for a run-off.

In the parliamentary race, 193 seats are up for grabs. Candidates will also contest 462 local council wards.

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