Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has described the May 20 Tripartite Elections as lacking fairness, transparency and credibility and questioned the legitimacy of the eventual winner and incumbent President Peter Mutharika.
But Mutharika’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has reacted angrily to the release of the report, saying the elections were “a closed chapter”. The party said its victory was certified by several foreign and local election observer groups.
Launching the results of the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections Monitoring Report in Lilongwe, the commission further announced it will launch a more comprehensive probe to find out if the shortfalls were a result of systematic rigging or not—an aspect outside the released report’s scope.
“Based on its extensive elections monitoring, the commission’s findings is that Malawi failed to administer fair, transparent and credible election, and address the irregularities which besieged the electoral process,” the commission’s chairperson Sophie Kalinde told journalists.
She added: “Within what is always a limited scope of election monitoring, the commission did not carry out in-depth investigations to determine and conclude if the various flaws and irregularities in the process, management and administration of the elections were a result of electoral fraud and rigging.”
However, the commission has called for several electoral reforms, including overhauling the first-past-the-post system to a system where the winner is voted for by a majority—and further discusses flaws during the pre-election period, during the eventual period and a five-month post-election period.
Kalinde justified the release of the statement as evidence-based, adding that election “shortfalls were not isolated incidents” but widespread—pointing to possible gross system failure or systematic machination to rig the elections.
Among others, the commission cites discrepancies in numbers of the vote count, irregular conduct of polling officers, including presiding officers, poor state of security and storage of cast votes as well as logistical challenges.
Responding to questions on whether the report’s findings question the victory and legitimacy of Mutharika, commissioner Reverend Zacc Kawalala said the eventual outcome was in dispute and aspects of the report point to questions over Mutharika’s legitimacy.
“The commission holds the view that the recount was necessary rather than proceed with results whose electoral management body had questioned. It brought questions of legitimacy which the public must take note [of],” added Kawalala.
Reacting to the development, DPP spokesperson and the party’s leader in Parliament Francis Kasaila said MHRC’s report lacks credibility compared to reports by other election stakeholders whose expertise is in election management.
“The European Union [EU] and Mesn [Malawi Electoral Support Network], for example, declared the elections free and fair, is the MHRC an expert in elections or human rights? They were not the only observer in that election and more credible institutions declared the results credible, free and fair,” said Kasaila.
MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila, whose party came second in the polls but has always disputed its credibility, yesterday welcomed the report in an interview as a vindication of the party and other stakeholders’ positions that the elections were not credible.
“We very much feel vindicated. You can also add Centre for Multi-party Democracy [CMD] among the stakeholders whose reports indicated that the election results were not credible,” said Kabwila.
The 2014 tripartite elections were marred by chaos and several irregularities and court actions, including injunctions aimed at stopping its release and at one point former head of State Joyce Banda attempted in vain to nullify the vote.