MEC has evidence of ‘anomalies’: Mbendera declares Malawi elections credible

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera has said the electoral body has found “evidence of anomalies” in the May 20 polling but ruled out rigging, saying assessing the electoral process in a round it has been “credible”.

President Joyce Banda last week called the vote “null and void”, saying it was marred by “serious irregularities”, and called for fresh elections. This was halted by the court challenge.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera who was running second in preliminary results released after about a third of the vote had been counted last week, had asked for a court order allowing for a recount. He is backed by Atupele Muluzi president of United Democratic Front (UDF).

Justice Mbendera:  Maintain peace
Justice Mbendera: Maintain peace

But the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led by Peter Mutharika, who was leading the vote in early results, wanted the court to prevent the 30-day extension.

Addressing a live radio news conference on Thursday evening, MEC chairperson said the commission continues with its preparation to announce the results Friday which is the expiry of the 8-day window provided for by the law.

Mbendera said the commission has looked at the complaints and has resolved some of them but he added that some cases have been referred back as there is need for more evidence to be brought forward.

Initially there were 58 polling stations set aside where anomalies such as voters number exceeded number of registered voters, however, Mbendera said the figure had gone up to 65 polling stations that are now under investigations.

Speaking in a calm, clear and composed manner, Mbendera said, the electoral body has since discovered evidence of anomalies but said he could not “definitively explain if it is rigging.”

“We have come across evidence of anomalies,” said Mbendera responding to a journalist question.

“Rigging in an election is a definitive process of trying to subvert the will of the people. We are not able to answer whether this (anomalies) is rigging or not,” said Mbendera, who is also judge of the supreme court of appeal in Malawi.

BBC correspondent Raphael Tenthani pressed on Mbendera to comment if he can vouch that the elections were credible.

“Mr Tenthani should I put ‘my hand on my chest’ and say this was credible. I think this was credible,” said Mbendera.

He praised national broadcaster MBC, saying it allowed coverage to all stakeholders, saying MEC consulted President Banda to free the public airwaves “and she allowed that MBC be free.”

Mbendera said the credibility of elections must be assessed on the basis of what MEC was able to do in the whole electoral process.

“Credibility is a value judgement of a whole process it is not about a particular window that we are assessing. Credibility should be judged on the basis of what we have done from the beginning,” he said.

He said on elections day “99 % was trouble free, 1 .03 % was troubled but even in the troubled area we were careful to allow the voters to come and vote on the second day.”

Declared Mbendera: “In my view, these elections were free, fair, transparent and therefore credible”.

Mbendera said that results for parliamentary and councillor will delay but by Friday they will announce results of the presidential election but it will depend on the High Court could grant an extension for a recount.

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