Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has warned the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and other stakeholders to clear some cobwebs that have the potential to spark violence and mar the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
PAC chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota said the factors threatening MEC’s desire to deliver free, fair, transparent and credible elections include in-fighting in political parties, people’s frustration that critical Electoral Reforms legislation such as 50-plus-one had not been implemented as expected and corruption allegations against MEC.
Delivering the caution during a meeting with MEC in Lilongwe on Wednesday evening, the cleric said: “Political parties are experiencing squabbles within their structures as presidential candidates and running mates are unidentified while the political appetite for leadership is increasing each day, as voters are approaching the 2019 elections.
“The deliberate failure [by Parliament] to pass reforms is a trigger to disputes and electoral violence especially if there will be a narrow margin between the leading candidate and the second as was the case in 2014.”
Political commentators have said PAC’s warning is a wake-up call for everyone in Malawi.
Mzuzu-based socio-political commentator Emily Mkamanga said: “The warning to MEC is, indeed, timely not only to the electoral body, but also to civil society organisations (CSOs), party leaders, donors and everyone in the country. Everyone has a role to play to avert violence.”
She said if the apparent lack of intra-party democracy and the friction among members of different parties is left unresolved for a long time, violence could be inevitable.
“In sounding out the warning, PAC should not be apologetic. It is doing the right thing and solutions to the problems should be found speedily and churches and other key stakeholders should facilitate the avoidance and management of violence,” said Mkamanga.
She said women and children are on the receiving end of violence.
On her part, political scientist Nandini Patel urged MEC to involve other stakeholders such as CSOs in addressing the challenges facing the electoral process.
She condemned party leaders who are pre-occupied with undemocratic tendencies such as denying their supporters free speech and the right of association.
Said Patel: “Parties need to resolve their differences on their own, without resorting to court cases. They should avoid ‘old-style politics’ of hero-worshipping leaders and marginalising other contestants for positions.
“Let us hold all political parties accountable. We must demand issue-based campaigning from politicians seeking leadership positions through the ballot box.”
But she pointed out that people should not be overly pessimistic about the polls next year, saying MEC operations have improved in many respects.
Said Patel: “For example, MEC has a Legal Service [department] and it has a chief elections officer [Sam Alfandika] who is competent and has a good track record.”
In her response, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said intra-party squabbles are political issues which need to be addressed by leaders and their supporters.
She said: “MEC is mandated to manage elections according to the law and it does not have the mandate to propagate a particular system of government. Issues of intraparty violence are political issues which we cannot comment on.”
Ansah, who is a judge at the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, played down allegations that some MEC commissioners are sometimes bribed during elections. She condemned the act and proposed that the matter should be for every citizen of goodwill to detect and report it to authorities with evidence.
Malawi is set to hold sixth post-independence multiparty elections in May 2019. n