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.
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.
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’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.”
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’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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.