International observors hails Malawi elections Malawi elections for being handled with ‘professionalism, dedication’

Four of the international observation missions — the European Union, African Union, the Commonwealth, and the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries — have  commended  commended Malawi for ensuring a peaceful electoral process to date, saying the continent can borrow a leaf from the country.

Mahama (centre) and his team
Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki (Centre), who is the chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, speaks to the media in Malawi on Thursday.
Part of the audience

In its statement, issued at Ryalls Hotel and Maryliss Hotels in Blantyre, all four said the elections were well-managed, inclusive, transparent and competitive even though the campaign was marked by tensions and an unlevel playing field, especially on media coverage.

“However, the results process is still to be completed and inclusivity and transparency are vital,” said EU’s Chief Observer, Miroslav Poche.

“The process was largely well organised by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and voting on election day was well-managed.”

In terms of the preparations for the elections, Poche stated: “The process was well-managed by MEC, and MEC’s inclusive and transparent approach meant that stakeholders retained a high level of confidence in the election management body.

“Of particular note was the improved integrity of the voter register, a revised and public election calendar and the creation of constituency tally centres.”

The Chief Observer noted that the campaign was competitive, with a strong sense of public engagement at rallies and civic education events.

“However, despite being largely peaceful, there were some incidents and heightened tension. This was not helped by the various claims of  ‘rigging’ in the midst of the campaign. We also observed misuse of handouts and state resources and overall there was an unlevel playing field in favour of the ruling party.”

The EU EOM has been present in Malawi since 4 April 2019, and had 28 long-term observers covering the districts during the pre-election period.

On Election Day, the EU had a total of 83 observers, which reported from 342 polling stations, across 120 constituencies in 27 of the 28 districts of Malawi. Among the polling stations visited, some 79% were in rural areas.

“On Election Day, EU observers reported very positively on the opening and voting procedures. Poll officials did a good job in often difficult circumstances. The vote count was transparent, but it was less well-managed, partly due to the difficult conditions and partly due to poor adherence to the procedures.

“Looking ahead, the tallying of results continues and it is clear that problems with results sheets are causing challenges. The EU EOM will continue to follow this critical part of the process prior to making our final assessment.”

Of particular interest, the EU made observation on Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) report on violence against women in elections and gave a particular mention of DPP’s director for elections, Ben Phiri, who used defamatory language against former first lady and UTM founding member, Shanil Patricia Dzimbiri.

Poche was singled out the Mangochi incident in January 2019, when a female supporter of UTM was stripped by DPP cadets, and the subsequent “women’s marches” against such violence significantly contributed to a decline in electoral violence generally.

“MEC needs to be allowed to complete its job and the country should remain calm as it awaits the final result,” concluded the Chief Observer, who added that they will remain in the field to follow the results process until 19 June.

The other three, the African Union, (led by former Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama); the Commonwealth, (led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki and the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries, all agreed with EU’s assertions.

Mbeki, who is the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, said the Malawi election has so far been handled with “professionalism and dedication”..

Mbeki said although the initial pace of tallying was slow, the observer group will continue to follow progress in the days ahead.

Both Mahama and Mbeki then left for the National Tally Centre at Chichiri Convention Centre for the results update briefing by MEC’s chairperson Justice Jane Ansah (SC).

The contest is still too close to call in a between incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party and Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party.

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EU says DPP misuse of state  resources eroded credibility

European Union election observation mission to Malawi says although the tripartite election has generally been peaceful, pre-election political high tension...