Ballot papers for the fresh presidential election arrived in the country on Friday amid heavy security by Malawi Defence Force (MDF), raising hopes that polling will take place on Tuesday.
Electoral stakeholders, especially those representing the contestants Lazarus Chakwera for Tonse Alliance and Peter Mutharika for the DPP-UDF partnership were present during the arrival to ensure that the ballot papers are in good order.
The country goes to polls on Tuesday following a High Court—sitting as a Constitutional Court—order for a fresh presidential election after the courts nullified the previous poll because of “widespread irregularities”.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Chifundo Kachale expressed happiness that the ballot papers were in the country in spite of the tight schedule for the printer to deliver.
In his view, all is set to take the ballot papers to respective districts for voting on Tuesday, allaying earlier fears about some anticipated logistical challenges.
Kachale was also optimistic that government was going to deliver K10 billion to the commission through Treasury for the administration of the elections.
Said Kachale: “MEC has received K2.8 billion of the funds promised by Treasury and the funds have already been accessed. There are some technical hitches in the electronic money transferring system but by close of business today (on Friday) we are assured that all the money will have been transferred to MEC because all the parties are pulling in the right direction. As MEC, I don’t think that we have anything to worry about.”
Answering questions from the media at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA), Kachale also said that the commission is going to ensure that all logistical bottle-necks have been sorted out to ensure that they deliver flawless elections.
Howard Kachipanda, speaking on behalf of Tonse Alliance whose torch-bearer is Lazarus Chakwera with Saulos Chilima as running mate, raised concerns about reserve forms which have arrived alongside the ballot papers.
In his words, these are the same issues which also ignited suspicions of rigging in the pevious election.
Said Kachipanda: “We have noted that there is a pallet containing reserve forms. Why should we have reserve forms when the printer was given the exact number of forms to print according to potential voters? Who is going to use these reserve forms? Where are they going to be kept?”
But Kachale, in his briefing to the stakeholders, said the reserve forms were a fall back plan and would be kept at district tally centres and they were printed to ensure that in the unlikely event that the printer missed out some forms when packing.
Tonse Alliance members at the airport suggested that they should tail vehicles that were transporting the ballot papers to their destinations to ensure nothing sinister happens along the way.
But during the briefing director of Military Operations and Training at MDF, Blaise Saenda, told elections stakeholders that doing so would be a breach of security protocol.
Said Saenda: “I would like to tell all of us here that security of these ballot papers is in the hands of MDF and we are not going to allow anyone to tailgate the vehicles carrying them. Anyone doing so would be risking their lives. Let me warn that we don’t want anyone following the vehicles within at least one kilometre distance.”
In an interview, Clement Stambuli, speaking on behalf of the DPP-UDF Alliance, said he was happy that the ballot papers are in the country and that his party is ready for the election.
Other MEC officials at the airport were Chief Elections Officer Sam Alfandika, commissioners Jean Mathanga, Arthur Nanthuru and Linda Kunje who were not present at Thursday’s press briefing. They had excused themselves to seek legal advice from their lawyers on how to proceed after Chakwera earlier in the week sought a judicial review on their appointment.
Mathanga said that she is still a MEC commissioner and is still serving the commission in that capacity.
In an exclusive interview, she said: “I have been working as a commissioner and I have been present where I was supposed to be, save perhaps for a few times when I could be attending to equally important matters.”n