The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Justice Anastasia Msosa on Wednesday expressed concern that civil society organization (CSOs) did not participate in the twin bye elections held in Mzimba district on Tuesday.
Making the official the official announcement at Mzimba Boma that ruling Peoples Party (PP) candidate Raymond Nkhata and an Independent candidate Joseph Mavuto Kachali have shared parliamentary seats in the twin Mzimba by-elections with Nkhata winning the Mzimba South West constituency while Mavuto Kachali claiming the Mzimba Central seat, Justice Msosa decried the absence of CSOs during the entire campaign period but quickly said their absence was not deliberate as MEC did not have funds for them.
“CSOs were conspicouly absent during the entire by-election,” noted MEC Chair during a news conference held at the makeshift tally centre.
She however commended UNDP, British High Commission official, Malawi Human RightsCommisson “for observing the polls”, saying “their presence added confidence in the electoral process.”
Msosa said: “Civil Society organizations are very important in the provision of voter education and as MEC we need different players to make the electoral process free and fair.”
Announcing the official result, Msosa said Nkhata scooped 9,654 votes in Mzimba South West beating Independent candidate James Nthara who collected 4,636 votes, Lonard Chavula of Democratic Progressive (DPP) who got 3,210 and another Independent Baxter Mazunda who managed 219 votes. There were 232 null and void votes. The constituency had 34, 816 registered voters, out of which 18, 007 turn out to vote, representing 51.7 percent.
In the fiercely contested Mzimba Central, Msosa said Mavuto Kachali amassed 9,412 votes in 32 polling centres beating Aram Beza of PP who closely followed with 8,154 votes. Other contestants were Owen Mkandawire of DPP who got 2, 313, AFORD’s Enita Njolwa who collected 341, Independent Kandodo Mvula with 55 while Bonafacio Ngulube of New Rainbow Coalition (NARC) only managed to wrestle 18 votes. There were 41, 740 registered voters, out of which 20, 557 turned out to vote, representing 49.34 per cent.
MEC chair declared the polls were “free, fair and credible.”
“Let me congratulate all the contestants for displaying maturity and responsibility during the elections. The heated campaign did not result into the shedding of blood or indeed loss of life. This is very commendable,” Msosa said.
She said MEC was happy with the turnout of women voters.
“My observation was that over 80 percent of the voters were women. This very encouraging. One day we will vote these men out,” Msosa joked.
But opposition parties complained about PP’s rigging tactics during voting especially in Mzimba South West saying the party’s Veep openly dished out money and chunks of meat to prospective voters.
But the Veep’s spokesperson Kondwani Munthali expressed ignorance on the issues.
DPP’s Henry Mussa, who led the party’s campaign team in Mzimba South west, conceded the party’s defeat saying it is a lesson to the party.
“We have lost badly. The gap is very big. For instance, in some centers our candidate had a mere 17 votes while the winner had 900. You cannot rule out rigging with a party that is in government,” Mussa said.
However, MEC parried away the accusations saying it only received one complaint of alleged stuffed ballot boxes.
“We investigated this and found that it was more of any allegation than a complaint and there were not substantial issues that could affect the out come of the results. But in many cases such complaints are dealt with by the Multiparty Liaison Committee,” she said.
Kachali initially a PP member defied all odds to run on an independent ticket after protesting against PP’s primaries which saw Aram Mdala Wedson Beza as the party’s anointed heir.
Mzimba South West Constituency had 34, 816 registered voters and 30 poling centers but only 18,007 people voted representing a 35 percent turn out.
Kachali told Nyasa Times in an interview that he was humbled by the people trust and promised to work hard to solve their development challenges.
“It was a tough race because I was fighting with heavy weights but with God’s help I have succeeded. I want to lobby NGOs and government so that I complete the few projects that were left behind,” Kachali said.
One of the losing candidates Kandodo Mvula (Independent) said he was happy that his colleague has won.
“We will see each other in 2012,” Mvula said.
Mzimba Central constituency had 41, 740 registered voters and 32 polling centers but 20,567 people voted representing a 49 percent turn out.
In total both constituencies have 62 polling centers comprised of 77 polling streams with 76,556 registered voters.
Meanwhile, the Government has hailed the peaceful conduct of the by-elections.
Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu said: ”Government commends the people of Mzimba South West and Mzimba Central Constituencies for having very free and fair elections.
“Government also commends the Malawi Electoral Commission for conducting the elections professionally. That the elections were conducted in a free atmosphere, without any intimidation, is an indication that democracy is gaining ground in Malawi under the leadership of Her Excellency President Mrs. Joyce Banda.”
Mzimba Central fell vacant following the death of Professor Donton Mkandawire (DPP) while Mzimba South West fell vacant following the ascendency of Khumbo Kachali to the Vice Presidency.