Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) on Thursday released the much awaited detailed report on the May 20, 2014 elections which ushered President Peter Mutharika to power controversially.
The report is decrying the continued abuse of public resources during electoral period by ruling parties and the reluctance of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to open up to opposition political parties.
Mutharika, 76, the younger brother of president Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office in 2012, was declared winner of the disputed polls.
MEC report has been long overdue after a renowned governance body Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) criticised the “flawed” election of Mutharika, saying the result was tainted by “substantial electoral irregularities”.
The state-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) also released its report which noted that the elections that ushered Mutharika to powere were not fair, not transparent and therefore not credible.
In the 75-paged MEC report signed by all Commissioner which has been submitted to President Mutharika, the electoral body has since called for strict enforcement of the Communications Act to ensure the public broadcaster treat all candidates and political parties fairly and equally.
MEC revealed in the report that during the electoral period, it held a meeting with MBC management after it was observed that it was bias toward the then ruling Peoples Party (PP) and its allies.
“As one way of levelling the play field, the Commission held two meetings with the Board of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). The first meeting was held on April 4, 2014 at the MEC Head Office to find means on how the broadcaster could treat all electoral players equitably. It was observed that the public broadcaster was biased towards the ruling party and its allies,” reads in the report in part.
Among other recommendations, the electoral body has called for legal reforms that will check abuses of state resources during campaign and the need for investment in the improvement of results management.
MEC also said there is a need for the country to migrate to a new biometric voter registration system with electronic field data capture.
“The 2014 tripartite elections were a significant step in the sustenance of democracy in Malawi as they marked the return of local governance structures after over a decade. The combination of three elections presented an enormous task for the Malawi Electoral Commission. The challenges faced in the conduct of the elections are very important lessons for the conduct of future elections,” reads the report.
According to the report, the elections had a 70.7 percent Voter Turnout with percentage of Valid Votes against Registered Voters at 69.99 percent. 1.07 percent was null and Void against Total Votes cast. 7,470,806 people registered to vote with 5,228,583 as a total Valid votes. Null and Void votes were 56,695 with a total Votes Cast at 5,285,278.
In the MHRC report, MEC was criticised for its poor “preparedness “. And that the credibility of the elections, in terms of both the process and the outcome is “therefore cast in very serious doubts.”
The rights commission recommended that the elections management capacity of MEC needs to be strengthened, including among other things by ensuring that Malawi graduates from dependence on donors to fund its elections.
“Government should be committed to fully and timely fund Malawi’s elections,” recommends MHRC.
The rights commission also recommends that detailed in-depth investigations into the shortcomings and irregularities of the elections should be carried out “in order to identify the root causes and put the issue of whether or not these developments were a result of deliberate manipulation to rest.”
MHRC also called for several electoral reforms, including overhauling the first-past-the-post system to a system where the winner is voted for by a majority—and further discusses flaws during the pre-election period, during the eventual period and a five-month post-election period.
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