The European Union (EU) has said it will not send its election observer mission for the forthcoming fresh presidential election.
Chargé d’affaires for the EU delegation to Malawi Ivo Hoefkens said in a written response on Wednesday the EU has not received an invitation from Malawi; hence, the decision.
But Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says the invitation letters were sent.
Hoefkens, whose observer mission came under fire for its preliminary report on the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, stated that the elections were well organised despite some challenges.
He said: “For the upcoming election, the European Union will not be sending an election observation mission. For EU to send an observation team, there should be a formal request from the authorities of the country hosting an election. Up until this point, there has not been such an invitation.”
Hoefkens said the role of international electoral observation is not to certify the elections or legitimise the results of an election, but to make recommendations on how to improve future electoral processes, while helping the host country to better implement its international and regional obligations related to elections.
He explained: “The preliminary statement included clear disclaimers with regard to the fact that the observation of counting and tabulation was still ongoing when it was released.
“It is, therefore, inappropriate to use the a misleading narrative about the EU having certified the elections as free and fair, or having made any other sweeping assertion. In fact, the preliminary statement—issued 48 hours after Election Day—is a balanced assessment, which includes references to irregularities in the process observed up until that point.”preliminary statement to justify
Efforts to check if the Southern Africa Development Commission (Sadc) and the African Union (AU) would send their observer teams were futile as the local AU office said such decisions are handled at their headquarters in Addis Ababa while Sadc said they would respond later. They had not responded by press time.
But in an interview on Wednesday, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said invitations were already sent.
He said: “The invitation MEC sent to all observers for the tripartite elections is still valid. The MEC has been sending them updates regarding the fresh presidential election. They are aware of where we stand at the moment.
“The Covid-19 and subsequent travel bans might be a factor that might fail international observers to come and not necessarily the fact that MEC never invited them.”
The absence of observers, according to Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steven Duwa, is unfortunate and may lead to another disputed election.
He said: “The observers help ensure that the elections are credible, that there is transparency and accountability. One would have thought that in the absence of foreign observers, local ones would take up the role, but they are not because they don’t have resources.
“The courts clearly stated that there were issues in the management of elections by MEC. This means you need some teams to observe their conduct during these elections. If none is observing, then we could be heading for another disputed poll.”
Malawi is heading for the fresh presidential poll after both the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court of Appeal found that the May 21 2019 elections were fraught with serious irregularities and ordered a fresh poll within 150 days from Feberuary 3 2020.