Malawi: Protect the vote, or the voter? In African elections, no easy choice. | Ryan Lenora Brown and Josephine Chinele/CSMonitor

The crowd gathered in Kasungu, stretched down its main street and bunched around a small stage. Some wore sky-blue skirts and dresses emblazoned with the face of Peter Mutharika, the country’s president. Others waved handkerchiefs or flyers stamped with four ears of corn – the logo of his political party, the Democratic Progressive Party. Shoulder to shoulder, they jostled for a view of his black SUV. As it parted the crowd, they cheered and ululated. Soon he was onstage, promising in a booming voice that his second term would bring a raft of good fortune to this town in central Malawi. It looks like a scene from another era, before social distancing made gatherings like this a near-impossibility in many parts of the world. But this rally was filmed in mid-June, as Malawi entered the final run-up to its election – held today. Across the world, the COVID-19 crisis has introduced a new wrinkle into the already complicated business of holding an election. Traditional campaigning, after all, is built on closeness – handshaking and posing for photos and the show of strength that is a mass rally. And voting itself often forces people to scrunch together in queues, touching the same polling-place door handles and touch screens and ink pads. How do you do that when experts say touch and breath could spread a deadly disease?

Malawi: Election Results System Tested Amid Network Challenges | VoA News

An election governing body in Malawi has done its first test of a system that tallies election results, as a May 21 poll draws near. Testing of the Results Management System is meant to find weaknesses and glitches, as officials hope Tuesday’s exercise will help calm fears of election rigging. Officials placed staff and equipment at election centers across Malawi to transmit results to the main tally center in Blantyre. Jane Ansah, chairperson for the Malawi Electoral Commission, says the test exercise is meant to calm fears that election results might be tampered with. “This is one of the issues of transparency. We invited people to come and witness this test run, and I believe, as they witness the test run, they will be assured that there is no reason or any basis for any fears of hacking the system,” Ansah said. However, the test did uncover network glitches in the Results Management System, especially at voting centers in rural areas. The test exercise began nearly an hour late because of connectivity problems. Some tallying centers in southern Malawi — like Nsanje district — failed to transmit results to the main tally center.

Malawi: Political Violence Mars Malawi Election Run-Up | VoA News

Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. However, DPP officials have denied being behind the attacks, blaming misguided youth who aim to tarnish the party’s image. In response, Malawi’s electoral commission has threatened to disqualify any candidate using violence. One opposition party member, Henderson Waya, a member of the United Transformation Movement, was attacked by a group of youths two weeks ago when he and others were driving to a party rally.

Malawi: Malawi criminalises handouts for votes ending the age-old election tradition | Face2Face

Most political candidates take advantage of the electioneering period to pay out lots of money and gifts to the electorate in a bid to sway their decisions in their favour or against their opponents. Many African countries have tried to stem this habit but only a few have managed to successfully pass a law to criminalise the process. One of these countries is Malawi, which passed the Political Parties Act that came to effect on December 1, 2018.  The law bans politicians from using cash payments and other incentives to get support ahead of elections in 2019.

Malawi: New Biometric Voter Registration Pushed, Despite Doubts | VoA News

Malawi has always relied on paper registration for voters, but electoral authorities say that hasn’t worked so well. “We used to have a lot of problems in the past” with the passports and driver’s licenses used for registration “because photographs may fall off” or names may get misspelled, said Yahya Mmadi, a member of the Malawi Electoral Commission. But the southeast African country’s recently unveiled biometric system, being put in place before the 2019 general elections, “will be 100 percent correct,” he said. It relies on unique markers such as fingerprints.

Malawi: Zambia Offers Malawi a Lesson to Adopt 50-Plus-1 Electoral System – ‘To Avoid Govt Elected By Minority’ |

Malawi goes to national polls in three years time but debate for change from the current first-past-the-post and adopts a 50 per cent plus one law to ensure that the winner of presidential elections enjoyed majority support is continuing to heighten as it gets closer with Zambia polls providing good lesson. Malawi’s interfaith organization, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have recognised that 50 per cent plus one rule guarantees the leader acceptable, popular, majoritarian mandate. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi’s May 20, 2014 presidential election after defeating Joyce Banda. Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, took 36.4 percent of the votes cast, Lazarus Chakwera of MCP garnered 27.8 percent of the vote and Banda’s 20.2 percent.

Malawi: Ballots destroyed in fire | BBC

Some 1,500 ballot boxes from May’s disputed election in Malawi have been destroyed in an unexplained fire. It comes amid an opposition demand for a recount of voting papers for a parliamentary seat in a constituency in the capital, Lilongwe. The High Court was set to hear arguments about the case on Thursday. In May, it overruled an attempt by former President Joyce Banda to annul the presidential vote, which she said was marred by rigging. Peter Mutharika, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was declared the winner, taking 36.4% of the presidential vote.

Malawi: An end to uncertainty (but only that) | The Economist

IN THE days after Malawi’s elections on May 20th one thing that seemed clear: Joyce Banda, the sitting president, had lost. But it was only on May 31th, after a court turned down a lawsuit to force a recount, when the electoral commission announced that Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had won with 36.4%. Ms Banda (20.2%) lagged behind even Lazarus Chikwera, a political newcomer and former preacher, who garnered 27.8%. It is rare thing for an incumbent to lose an African election; it is almost unheard of for one to come third.

Malawi: New President Sworn in After Disputed Elections | Naharnet

Peter Mutharika was sworn in Saturday as Malawi’s new president after his arch-rival and predecessor Joyce Banda congratulated him and urged the country to move on from the disputed vote. Mutharika, the brother of president Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office in 2012, appealed to the 11 other presidential candidates to “join me in rebuilding the country” after some — including Banda — contested the results. Joining Vice President Saulos Chilima in taking the oath of office before a chief justice, Mutharika said he felt “very humbled” to stand as the fifth president of the impoverished southern African nation.

Malawi: Vote result blocked as court battle rumbles on | AFP

The results of Malawi’s controversial presidential elections could be announced on Friday if the courts rule out a recount, the country’s electoral commission said Wednesday. The outcome of the election was thrown into chaos last week when President Joyce Banda called the vote “null and void”, saying it was marred by “serious irregularities”. In some places the number of votes cast is reportedly greater than the number of voters. Court orders and injunctions have flown back and forth ever since, as supporters of Banda’s main rival Peter Mutharika urged the release of results as partial counts showed Banda to be a clear loser.

Malawi: Chaotic Election Set for Recount |

Final results for Malawi’s election may take up to two months. The electoral commission has admitted flaws during the vote and ordered a recount in some areas. “We envisage that the vote audit may take us not more than two months to conclude,” Chimkwita Phiri from Malawi’s electoral commission announced. The commission ordered a recount of the votes after admitting that there had been irregularities in the counting process. “There are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre,” read a statement by the chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Maxon Mbendera. He told members of the press that his staff would nevertheless complete the current vote counting, but that the results would not be announced until the electoral commission comes to a final conclusion.

Malawi: Malawi Party ‘Strongly’ Opposes Vote Recount | VoA News

Malawi’s main opposition Democratic People’s Party (DPP) says it is strongly against the recount of all ballots from the May 20 election saying the country’s High Court has the sole responsibility to order an election recount. Both local and international poll observers including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described Malawi’s presidential, legislative and local elections as credible and transparent before the electoral commission’s decision to order a recount of the vote citing voter irregularities in parts of the country. DPP spokesman Nicholas Dausi says the decision by Justice Maxon Mbendera, chairman of the electoral body, to order a vote recount was illegal. “It is extremely illegal for the Malawi Electoral Commission to order for the recount of the ballot boxes,” said Dausi. “They don’t have the power. That power of a recount can only be done after the Malawi Electoral commission has announced the final results and they give seven days for any complainant to do that, and that power lies with the Malawi High Court.”

Malawi: Malawians Await Court Ruling on Controversial Election | VoA News

The Malawi High Court is expected to rule Friday whether the results of the May 20th presidential election should be announced or a recount should be held. With about a third of the votes counted, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Peter Mutharika is leading with 42 percent of the unofficial tally. But Malawi Congress Party presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who is in second place, has gone to court along with third place candidate President Joyce Banda to demand a recount. Meanwhile, Malawi’s Electoral Commission Chair Maxon Mbendera said late Thursday that despite some irregularities, over 95 percent of voting was free, fair, transparent and credible. He said he will announce the final results Friday barring any court intervention.

Malawi: High court rejects president’s call to annul elections | Reuters

Malawi’s High Court on Saturday issued an injunction stopping President Joyce Banda from interfering in the electoral process, making her earlier decision to annul national elections invalid and raising the risk of post-election violence in the southern African country. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) suspended the country’s election announcement and ordered a re-count of votes, commissioner Chimkwita Phiri said at the national tally center in Blantyre. “There’s need for a physical check by opening the actual ballot boxes,” he said, adding that the number of ballots counted exceeded the number of voters registered. Banda earlier on Saturday ordered the cancellation of Malawi’s elections, citing fraud and “rampant irregularities” in a decision that triggered protests and was challenged by the national electoral authority and a political rival. Banda, who had been standing for re-election, ordered a new vote within 90 days but said she would no longer be a candidate to guarantee a credible outcome.

Malawi: Votes recounted amid fraud claims | BDlive

Malawi’s electoral authorities said on Sunday that they will re-open ballot boxes after finding evidence of irregularities, as the country faced a constitutional crisis over the disputed poll. “In the course of vote tallying, there are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre,” said Malawi Electoral Commission chairman Maxon Mbendera. “It has been agreed with political parties that this can be resolved by opening the ballot boxes and doing a physical audit,” he said. The recount could start this week after an implementation plan was thrashed out with political parties on Sunday. On Saturday, Malawian President Joyce Banda declared the election “null and void”, claiming there were “serious irregularities” with the poll. She issued a decree that vote counting stop and called for fresh elections in 90 days.

Malawi: Vote counting systems collapse, official resort to fax, e-mails | Business Standard

Malawi election officials have had to resort to fax and email to tally votes from this week’s election after the electronic system broke down, the chief elections officer said today, delaying the release of results. The system “is refusing to take the information from the ground where our data clerks are stationed to send the results,” chief elections officer Willie Kalonga told AFP two days after the vote. As a “back-up solution,” officials in the southern African country’s 28 districts were sending the results manually via fax and email to the national elections centre in Blantyre. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has yet to release preliminary results after Tuesday’s tight-run polls, which pit incumbent Joyce Banda against her rival and predecessor’s brother Peter Mutharika.

Malawi: Joyce Banda demands recount amid rigging fears | The Guardian

The Malawi president has called for an immediate manual audit of this week’s election results, alleging serious irregularities after the electoral commission reported its vote-tallying system had collapsed. “It has come to my attention that there (are) some serious irregularities in the counting and announcement of results in some parts of the country,” Joyce Banda said. She said unofficial partial results revealed vote tallies that exceeded the total number of registered voters in some constituencies. Discarded and tampered ballots had also been discovered, said Banda, who faces her first electoral test since she succeeded Bingu wa Mutharika after his death two years ago.

Malawi: Malawi goes to the polls in a climate of distrust and instability | The Guardian

Preparations for the general election in Malawi on 20 May have been more organised and transparent than in previous years, due in part to the current leadership of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). The commission has taken on the state broadcaster, MBC, encouraging it to open up to opposition candidates and their advertisements. It has co-sponsored public debates involving candidates and regularly sent press briefings on electoral procedures. In the prevailing climate of mistrust, it is vital for the MEC to reassure candidates and voters that the presidential, national assembly and local council elections will be free and fair, and that the new government will be legitimately elected. The distrust dates back to the unexpected death of President Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012. It began with vice-president Joyce Banda’s ascension to power, when the president’s brother, Peter Mutharika, and his Democratic Progressive party colleagues tried to halt the legal succession. Peter Mutharika is now a presidential candidate, and many voters believe his campaign is funded by wealth his brother accumulated during his period in office. His trial, along with those of the other 11 “coup-plotters”, is on hold.

Malawi: Civil Society Grand Coalition Warns of Possible Electoral Dispute | VoA News

The Malawi Civil Society Grand Coalition has warned that the electoral commission’s failure to address concerns expressed by political parties about the preparations leading up to the May 20 general election, saying they could undermine the entire tripartite vote. The grand coalition, which comprises faith-based groups, civil society organizations, NGOs and Trade Union organizations, also expressed worry that the continued use of state resources by President Joyce Banda’s ruling People’s Party during the campaign period could potentially lead to disputes during the election process.

Malawi: Blind Voters Push for Tactile Ballots | VoA News

Malawians who are blind are pushing the Malawi Electoral Commission to make available tactile ballot guides (TBG) for them to cast their votes independently.  In previous elections, they have been relying on guides who do the marking for them. They argue that such an arrangement violates their right to choose because they were not sure if their guides had really marked on the candidate of their choice. An advocacy group for the rights of people who are deaf and blind, the Visual Hearing Impairment Membership Association, said that tactile ballots will help ensure the full participation of the disabled in the elections. “The issue is that these people seem not to be assisted in the past elections. Yes, there might have been some problems [on the part on the commission] in the past, but this time we are saying ‘no, no, no.’  These people by nature have a right to vote as human beings and children of this country,” said Hockings Munyenyembe,  program manager for the association.

Malawi: Mesn lauds Malawi Electoral Commission for permitting 2014 election’s parallel vote tally centres | Malawi Nyasa Times

The Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) has applauded the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) for its decision to allow the conduct of Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) in 2014 tripartite elections. The electoral body’s chairperson Justice  Maxon Mbendera made the announcement at a highly consultative meeting with political parties and all electoral stakeholders held at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe on June 28, 2013. The decision, according Mesn, is a right direction in enhancing accountability and credibility of election results.

Malawi: Electoral Commission to launch 2014 elections strategic plan | Malawi Nyasa Times

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) will launch the 2014 Tripartite Elections, the Civic and Voter Education Strategy and the 2013 to 2017 Strategic Plan on Friday at Hotel Victoria in Blantyre. According a statement issued by Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga on Monday, delegates to the launch will include Presidents and Secretaries General of all political parties registered in Malawi, government officials, civil society organisations, the academia, development partners, the media, members of the diplomatic corps and other electoral stakeholders.

Malawi: 2014 polls budgeted at K18billion – Electoral Commission | Malawi Nyasa Times

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has released the final projected budget for the 2014 tripartite elections which has been pegged at K18 billion. MEC Commissioner Reverend Chinkwita Phiri said this on Thursday to reporters after a consultative meeting on Malawi’s preparedness for the 2014 tripartite elections organized by Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) in the capital Lilongwe. Chinkwita Phiri said the budget is on the higher side compared to previous electoral budgets because of several factors.

Malawi: Electoral Commission adopts electronic voter registration system | Nyasa Times

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has adopted the use of Electronic Biometric Voter Registration System in the country in order to address the enormous challenges the commission has been experiencing in maintaining a credible voters roll. A Biometric Voter Registration involves the use of biometric technologies with the use of computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras to capture the bio data of applicants. A MEC statement signed by the Chief Elections Officer, Willie Kalonga, says the adoption has been made following wide and extensive consultations with various stakeholders on voter registration solution.

Malawi: Electoral commission racing against time in Malawi | Newstime Africa

Local government elections were scheduled to take place in April 2011 but preparations were discontinued due to an impromptu sealing of MEC offices by late president Mutharika in December 2010. However, the commission dares that come May 2014 Malawians will be given the opportunity to vote for ward councillors in addition to electing their parliamentarians and president. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the re-demarcation exercise was not completed in 2010 because the Commission was closed. “At the time of closure, we had only finished collecting information. This information is what the technocrats and experts call scenarios on the new boundaries that would help us develop new maps,” said Commissioner Archbishop Emeritus Dr. Bernard Malango in Chikhwawa Monday January 14 2013.

Malawi: Malawi Electoral Commission drills stakeholders | Malawi Post

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) says there’s need for adequate, correct and value based information and capacity building among their stakeholders to contribute to acceptable and professionally managed elections. Mec Chairperson, Justice Anastazia Msosa, spoke on Monday during the opening of a five-day “building resources in democracy governance and elections” workshop in Blantyre.

Malawi: Electoral Commission ready for 2014 tripartite polls | Msosa

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) authorities declared on Thursday that they have sufficient time to prepare for the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in 2014. The message from MEC Chairperson Anastasia Msosa follows comments from the legal affairs committee of parliament that Malawi is not ready to hold the tripartite elections in 2014 due to financial and time constraints. The committee also feared that rushing the polls will not lead to free, fair and credible general elections thereby proposing for 2019. However, Msosa said the institution’s view is that two years is enough to prepare for a free, fair and credible election.

Malawi: President Bingu wa Mutharika dead | BBC News

President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has died, doctors and cabinet ministers have told the BBC, but the lack of a formal announcement is leading to widespread anxiety. Mr Mutharika, 78, suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday and state media say he was flown to South Africa for treatment. There are fears that his death could lead to a power struggle. Both the UK and US have called for the constitution to be respected. According to the constitution, the vice-president takes over if the head of state is incapacitated or dies in office. But Vice-President Joyce Banda and Mr Mutharika fell out after a row over the succession in 2010, and she was expelled from the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP).

Malawi: Malawi tripartite polls in 2014; opposition accuses government of violating law | The Maravi Post

Malawi will for the first time since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1994 hold tripartite elections in 2014, a decision the country’s opposition said was a violation of the constitution. The government announcement follows the cancellation of Local Government Elections that were scheduled to be held this year.

“This means voters will be voting for the president, Members of Parliament and Councillors at the same time,” Local Government and Rural Development Minister Anna Kachikho said Monday.  “Very soon I will be launching a guide, code of ethics and conditions of service related to local government structures.”