Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Justice Maxon Mbendera has said that the action by the former president Joyce Banda to order an annulment of the May 20 chaotic elections – – in which she was a candidate – could have been regarded as coup d’état if her attempts were successful.
Banda said the May 20 vote had been marred by rigging, multiple voting and computer-hacking.
She said a new vote should be held within 90 days but she would not stand again in any new poll.
Speaking in an interview In an interview to one of the country private television station Times TV, Mbendera also claimed that amidst the heat of the standoff he also had reports that Malawi Defence Forces (MDF) had been instructed to storm the national tally centre at Comesa Hall in Blantyre in order to force a recount.
“I took the decree with a sober heart as would do any Malawian. It would have been a coup d’état for the president to declare an election null and void,” he said.
The head of the electoral commission said the sitting president did not have the power to annul the vote.
“The law is very clear that elections shall be held on the third Tuesday of May in the fifth year of parliament and therefore it was uncalled for that anyone should order that. In any case the powers to do that rest in the court who could order a recount,” explained Justice Mbendera.
He said in the heat of the moment and following such threatening reports of the army storming the tally centre, staff feared for their lives and he had to personally work hard to calm them and assuring
them that nothing would happen.
“In any case the reports could disturb our data tabulation processes,” said Mbendera.
Before announcing the May 20 presidential elections results Mbendera openly wept as he failed to contain himself following the violence that characterized the standoff and led to the death of one in Mangochi.
The Mec chair said despite the pressure he refused to yield to the reports and to the presidential decree.
Mbendera said there was another report that some political parties were planning to wreak havoc in the country since their parties were losing in the preliminary results, a development which he said also put the Mec staff under panic.
He said he suspected that this may have emanated from suspicion that he was anti-People’s Party of Banda.
Mbendera disclosed that prior to the elections the former President summoned him to ask him about this suspicion.
Said Mbendera: “She claimed there was an intelligence report that I was going to vote for the Malawi Congress Party and that I donated cash amounting to K100, 000 to the party’s presidential candidate account for campaign purposes. I told her that it did not matter to me as to who would win and then I made up a decision to go and cast my vote.”
Mbendera also said that some political parties were pressurizing some of the MEC commissioners to force them into signing a note stating that the elections were flawed.
He said life was more difficult to contain the pressure considering that it was the first time for most of the MEC commissioners to preside over an election of such a magnitude.
“At the end of the day we must realise we are all humans and there could be an error as has been the case in elections elsewhere on the continent. I believe one must work in a public office in respect to the law no matter what forces do,” he said.
The May 20 elections were riddled with a variety of irregularities and violence that in some instances led to postponement of polling in some centres in Blantyre and Lilongwe.
The situation led to the extension of the voting beyond a single day and delay by MEC to announce official results.
The irregularities led to some political parties claiming the elections were rigged, an observation which Mbendera, the Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) and the European Union Election
Observer team, among other electoral players, have since dismissed.
In a previous statement about the elections, Banda had said that irregularities included.
- The arrest of presiding officers who were “caught in the act of rigging”
- Some people voting up to three times
- “Serious anomalies” where some candidates won more votes than the number of registered voters
- Discarded and tampered ballots
- Communication devices of some monitors being blocked
This was the first time that Malawi held presidential, parliamentary and local elections on the same day.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :