Catholic Bishops call for patience as Malawi awaits poll results: Tension rise

Bishops of the influential Roman Catholic Church through the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), an umbrella body for the eight Catholic Dioceses in Malawi, have called for patience and calm as the country awaits official declaration of elections results.

The bishops in a statement emailed to Nyasa Times abd signed by ECM chair Joseph Mukasa Zuzasaid they recognize that the road to the tripartite polls has been a “mixed bag of preparatory successes and challenges resulting in doubts been cast on the levels of preparedness, the competence of the Malawi Electoral Commission and the credibility of the results,”

The bishops noted that some logistical challenges resulted into some polling centres opening late and some other pockets of polling centres not actually voting on 20th May in so doing heightening the levels of impatience among some Malawian citizens.

Bishop Jospeh Zuza of Catholic issued statement
Bishop Jospeh Zuza of Catholic issued statement

Delay in releasing official results risks fanning tensions and analysts warned of the potential for violence.

The bishops in the statement called for “timely, effective and efficient delivery of electoral results that will sustain public confidence in the electoral process.”

Reads the statement: “ We call for continued patience, peace and calm from all electoral stakeholders and Malawi citizens in general to create an enabling environment in which the Malawi Electoral Commission releases the official results of the polls.”

The bishops also appealed to Malawians to refrain from any confrontational, defensive and uncompromising language and allow room for genuine reason, faith and dialogue.

“We categorically discourage violence as means of settling differences of our frustrations with the challenges the electoral processes are facing and encourage everybody to give room and space for dialogue and mediation.”

The statement added: “ We need peace supported by patience to allow the Malawi Electoral Commission to officially release the results.”

The bishops maintained the advice they gave to winners and losers in their Pastoral Letter: “We would like to remind those that will emerge victorious after the elections of their enormous responsibility to turn around our national woes and take this nation forward. As such, they will celebrate their victory with a sense of humility.

“Those who lose the elections should accept the results gracefully and quickly turn their energies towards building this country.”

Analyst Robert Besseling at research group IHS said the risk of violent clashes was rising.

“Highest risk of such violence will be driven by further delays in the MEC’s release of the vote and further claims of electoral irregularities by party leaders,” Besseling said as quoted by Reuters.

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust and the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) have also urged Malawians to keep calm as they await official announcement of Tuesday’s polls.

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