Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has cautioned stakeholders to be on guard against fake news and information circulating on social media ahead of official announcement of fresh presidential election results.
Briefing journalists earlier yesterday, MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale said unofficial results have potential to shape public perception on the expected poll outcome, but it is only the electoral body that has the legal mandate to announce and declare a winner.
He was speaking at the national tally centre at College of Medicine Sports Complex in Blantyre.
Kachale, a judge of the High Court of Malawi, observed that it was possible for social media to come up with their own results and distribute them; hence, stakeholders must be “extremely cautious” when taking action based on the same.
“The public is being reminded that when determining the results, the commission does not just look at the figures only, but will also consider complaints and issues that have been brought alongside that particular result,” he said.
Kachale also urged media houses to put a disclaimer that they are sharing unofficial results and that final results will be declared by MEC.
He also reminded the public that a candidate will be declared winner of the election when all votes are tallied and not based on a particular constituency, district or region.
Said Kachale: “Therefore, all stakeholders are advised to keep their eyes on the national tally that will be released by the commission.”
He said it will be unethical for any candidate or political leader to declare oneself the winner of the election as such a statement could potentially disturb social order and peace.
Kachale has for days sustained the message that MEC will announce results in its own time.
He said last Thursday at a briefing: ““I urge all stakeholders not to pressure the commission to announce the winner when the due process is not finalised. The commission has up to eight days, from the last date of polling, to announce the winner. As long as we are within the eight days, no one should complain that we are delaying releasing the results.”
Results at the national tally centre started arriving around midday yesterday with Chiradzulu District being the first followed by Likoma Island in the Northern Region.
Kachale restated his public warning against any conduct that would pose security threat to polling staff, their property and smooth process of vote counting.
“The security officers accompanying poll workers and guarding tally centres have the mandate to protect them and any such threat, intimidation or misconduct will not be tolerated. It will be met with full resistance of security officers according to their professional training,” he said.
The MEC chairperson also commended the professionalism and joint efforts of Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Police Service in putting up a vibrant security scheme within which the polls had been managed.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Noel Kayira said an unspecified number of people had been arrested in relation to electoral crimes and were still under police custody as of yesterday.
“Let me assure Malawians that the law will take its course on all those that have been arrested in relation to this election,” he said.
Security has been tight nationwide with Malawi Defence Force assigning not less than 30 soldiers at each district tally centre. In some cases, up to 60 soldiers were deployed at such centres.