As political campaign came to an end at 6am today, political parties and major stakeholders in Tuesday’s polls have expressed mixed feelings on the preparedness of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) ahead of what is expected to be a tight presidential race.
While the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party expressed satisfaction with the level of MEC’s preparedness, the opposition UTM has rated the commission’s readiness for the polls at 60 percent.
MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the party has followed every stage of the electoral process as managed by MEC.
“We have followed every stage. Our monitors have been trained besides us deploying monitors to all polling stations. Hitherto we have been happy with MEC’s level of preparedness. We have noted high level participation of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), which is a professional force. We look forward to great General Elections,” said Mkaka.
UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati told Nation on Sunday that MEC has not handled most of the complaints the party lodged, including allegations of some parties buying voter cards.
“We have lodged several complaints regarding some malpractices; chiefs campaigning for the ruling party. The ruling party has been giving out handouts contrary to the New Political Parties Act,” said Kaliati who added that her party has deployed 24 000 monitors across the country.
“We are vigilant and we have advised our monitors to be alert all the time. No one should disrupt the elections with crooked means,” she added.
In a statement released yesterday morning at a press conference in Blantyre, Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steve Duwa said so far MEC has done a commendable job to inspire confidence. However, Duwa observed that rigging claims by some parties has the potential to affect the credibility of the elections.
In a telephone interview yesterday, DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said they have confidence in the electoral body such that they have no misgivings about the process so far.
On his part, United Democratic Front (UDF) publicity secretary Ken Ndanga asked MEC to ensure that it is on top of things in terms of transport logistics.
MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said the preparations are at an advanced stage, adding that the distribution of ballot papers was expected to be completed today.
She said out of 2 154 vehicles which MEC needed by Tuesday, the electoral body had managed to find 1 900 vehicles, but she expressed optimism that the remaining 254 vehicles would not affect the distribution of polling booths, ballot boxes and papers from district councils to respective polling centres.
Said Ansah: “All is set for Tuesday’s tripartite elections. We were looking for three aircrafts and about 2 154 vehicles, but as we are talking now we have managed to find one aircraft and 1 900 vehicles. The shortfall will not affect the distribution exercise as we have completed the exercise [distribution] in many polling centres. We are optimistic that tomorrow [Sunday] every polling centre will have everything ready”.
Ansah, who is also the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge has threatened to suspend any candidate found wooing voters after the closure of the official campaign period.
On the other hand, local and international electoral stakeholders have said they are ready to observe and monitor the May 21 tripartite elections to ensure that they are free and fair.
Addressing journalists at Crossroads Hotel in Blantyre yesterday, chairperson of the Commonwealth Observers group, former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, said the group will deploy its observers in selected districts in the country’s three regions.
He said the Commonwealth observers will be working hand in hand with local electoral stakeholders to ensure free and fair elections.
“We are limited in numbers and clearly if we were thousands of people we would cover more districts. But unfortunately, we don’t have because it’s very costly to deploy mission like this. We believe that these deployments will be reinforced by what others might tell us,” said Mbeki.
On its part, Boniface Chibwana of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), an arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), said ECM, through his organisation, has deployed 662 monitors to enable the conference to have an independent voice on the elections.
Chibwana said his body planned to deploy monitors in all the polling stations, but due to limited resources, monitors will be deployed in selected centres.
Said Chibwana: “As a church, we need to have an independent voice. We will deploy 193 monitors in all the eight dioceses [193 constituencies] and 230 monitors in selected polling centres, which will depend on the number of voters and in areas a bit controversial. On top of the monitors, we will deploy 239 roving monitors who include bishops, priests, catechists and some CCJP staff.”
Meanwhile, MEC is reminding candidates and political parties that there will be pre-inspection of polling materials in all registration centres starting from 9am today.
The commission has since called on political parties, independent candidates and civil society organisations (CSOs) to send their monitors and observers for the exercise in all centres.
According to a statement from MEC yesterday, the exercise will still proceed in the absence of monitors and observers.
After 6 am today
- Candidates and their supporters or agents are not allowed to campaign or drive around hooting or with loud speakers playing campaign songs or any messages.
- Leaders of various faiths should be on the guard because their worship services can be used for campaign and the clergy is also advised to avoid projecting candidates.
- No member of the clergy should canvass for a candidate during any service of worship.
- No presentation, by candidates, of football trophies/prizes, conducting charity works or distributing relief items.
- Radio and television stations should also not broadcast or play any campaign messages and songs.
- Newspapers are not expected to run campaign stories and adverts.