MEC Chair Mbendera booed in Blantyre North by-elections launch

Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Justice Maxon Mbendera had a rude awakening when election stakeholders who included constituents, faith leaders and political party representatives, booed him in Blantyre North as he presided over the official launch of the Blantyre North parliamentary by-elections.

MEC will conduct parliamentary by-elections on October 7, 2014 in Thyolo East and Blantyre North constituencies and by-elections for ward councillors in Mbalachanda in Mzimba, among other wards.

President Peter Mutharika won in Thyolo East Constituency but the constituency fell vacant when he was declared winner of the May 20, 2014 presidential race while MEC postponed elections in Blantyre North Constituency following the death of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) candidate a few days before the polls.

Justice Mbendera :  Booed
Justice Mbendera : Booed

On August 24, 2014, MEC commissioners launched the by-elections in these various places and the Chairperson, Mbendera, was at Mdeka Primary School Ground in Blantyre North. Hell broke loose when, in his speech, he patted himself and MEC for conducting the May 20, 2014 tripartite elections “professionally”.

“Those elections were held in a free, fair and credible manner,” he insisted, attracting prolonged booing from the sizeable crowd that attended the official launch.

A seemingly angry villager accused Mbendera of “personally messing” up the May 20, 2014 elections due to “greed”.

“Mr. Chairperson, the results that you announced in May were not consistent with what we, the people of Malawi, actually wanted. You must have received a lot of money to mess up the elections,” the villager alleged, adding that it is “blatantly irresponsible” for the Chairperson to make any claims of “free and fair May 20 elections”.

Mbendera hit back at the villager, fuming that as a Supreme Court Judge, he would not compromise his integrity and dignity through receiving bribes.

“My conscience is extremely clear. I maintain that MEC is a credible organization that is guided by the laws of the country when administering elections at any level,” he said, amid continuous boos.

The credibility of May 20 elections was thrown into question after anomalies were discovered in dozens of the votes from over 4,000 polling stations.

The People’s Party (PP) and the opposition Malawi Congress Party, whose presidential candidate was Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, sought  recount following the chaotic voting process where, among others, unreliable tallies from polling centres where figures were deliberately erased and configured; presiding officers from one polling centre signing for three different polling centres.

Then, the MEC Chairman responded to the allegations as “cries of losers” and disregarded all the complaints as raised by political parties and other electoral stakeholders.

“The Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson was intransigent, insensitive and non-responsive to the unfolding events. At that time, it became apparent that MEC had lost control of their own process; were not able to provide leadership in announcement of results and had lost control of election data notwithstanding that accredited media were still announcing the unofficial results and that tension was brewing in the country,” remarked a political commentator.

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