EU final report on Malawi polls ‘ridiculous’

After days of merry-making and savoring the countryside,  the European Union (EU) Mission which assessed the conduct of the first ever tripartite elections in Malawi on May 20, 2014, has  come up with an election verdict, which, unfortunately, comes across like some sort of a spontaneous afterthought, according to a social and political commentator, Jill Chidothe.

The EU observers said there was no evidence of “massive” rigging in Malawi’s disputed election despite accusations of fraud by ousted president Joyce Banda.

EU chief observer Veronique De Keyser told reporters nearly a month after the vote that her team had found no evidence of mass irregularities that could change the result.

Veronique De Keyser, chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission for the Malawi election
Veronique De Keyser, chief of the European Union Election Observation Mission for the Malawi election

“No substantiated evidence of systematic rigging was presented to or revealed by the EU observer mission,” she said.

But the EU observers verdict has been described as “outrageous” by a local analyst.

“It is dangerous to say the least. After clambering through all that election ruins and sifting through the dirt, the EU should have done better than opening a can of worms. Malawians and the entire international community know that the election results were not the true reflection of the aspirations of the people of Malawi,” said the social and political commentator.

The credibility of the vote held from May 20 and extended by two days was thrown into question after anomalies were reported at various polling stations, including more votes cast than the number of registered voters.

The troubles spilled into the courts where leaders including Banda sought a ballot recount, which was later rejected.

After a delay in announcing the result, the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika was declared the winner.

Chidothe said there were also reports that some monitors in some polling centres were chased by police and MEC officials, mainly teachers and police officers, even before sealing of ballot papers while in other cases a systematic pattern was emerging that polling staff were influencing voters to vote for certain candidates.

The polling officers, mainly teachers and police officers, were exposed and some of whom have confessed that they were induced with money by a certain presidential candidate.

“The vote was clearly stolen and that for the sake of national peace and progress, aggrieved parties decided they should let those declared winners continue with the business of running the affairs of government,” Chidothe told Nyasa Times in a telephone interview from Lilongwe.

Chidothe, who works for an international human rights NGO based in the capital, said MEC, the body that is constitutionally mandated to conduct and manage elections, had publicly admitted that the 2014 tripartite elections were marred by massive irregularities such as the premature discarding of ballot papers; polling centre officers signing for results of other polling centres; late delivery of polling material to polling centres; number of voters far exceeding number of registered voters; and many more.

The only way, MEC had suggested, of ensuring the credibility of the elections was to carry out a physical audit and recount of all ballots that were cast, he said.

“In fact, in its preliminary report, the EU had also admitted that voting was done amidst ‘considerable organizational shortcomings’. The elections were mired in so much controversy that no credible observer can guarantee for their integrity. The outcome of those elections was impaired or adulterated. There are no two ways about this and any foreigner attempting to impose their own imagination on Malawians must feel ashamed,” he concluded.

The three main political parties—People’s Party (PP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) had also expressed concern before the declaration of the final results that there was massive rigging and fraud.  They agreed with MEC on conducting a month-long recount of votes across the country.

The EU observers nonetheless said organisational mismanagement, significant logistical shortcomings and failure to transmit results electronically gave rise to “significant concerns” about the integrity and authenticity of the results.

The shambolic vote, which was followed by rioting in parts of the country, was also declared largely transparent by the African Union.

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