Malawians yesterday voted in the long-awaited court-sanctioned fresh presidential election with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) expressing satisfaction with the manner in which the entire voting process progressed.
MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale, accompanied by his commissioners, told journalists at the national tally centre at College of Medicine Sports Complex in Blantyre last night that although there were pockets of violence, voting was generally peaceful and without intimidation.
He said there was no intimidation of voters or electoral staff, no tampering or damage of electoral materials; hence, his satisfaction that the process was smooth.
Kachale said for centres where voting started later than the scheduled 6am, the process went on late into the night and was expected to conclude yesterday.
He said: “In short, we have not received any report where voting can go until tomorrow.”
The MEC chairperson also announced that the electoral body had already received complaints from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He said the commission had responded to some of the issues and was yet to meet and deal with the outstanding ones.
To facilitate complaints handling, Kachale said the electoral body has assembled a team of 10 lawyers—including nine from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. He said the team is tasked to look into and deal with electoral complaints.
On alleged rigging attempts by political party zealots caught in some parts of the country and assaults by members of the public of some of the suspects, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Malawi Police Service assured the nation that they were on top of the situation.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Noel Kayira said in as far as security was concerned, the police had received an overwhelming flow of information which was treated with utmost seriousness and there were no serious confrontations AND few minor injuries.
While condemning some members of the public for resorting to vigilantism and mob justice, he said the police were still monitoring the situation nationwide and assured Malawians the environment was generally calm and peaceful.
Said Kayira: “Avoid mob justice because we might lose evidence as we may need to further investigate the incidents. As of now, things are moving in the right direction.”
He said chaotic incidents were reported in Nkhotakota, Thyolo, Lilongwe, Dowa and Balaka.
On his part, MDF director of military operations and training Blaise Saenda warned the public against violating security protocols as that would be construed as an act of aggression against the soldiers escorting the votes to the tally centre who will be fully armed.
“Don’t endeavour to break the security protocol as this will be tantamount to aggressive action,” he warned.
From around 6am yesterday when polling stations nationwide opened for the fresh presidential election, the main tally centre in Blantyre at College of Medicine (CoM) remained inactive.
The only major activity that happened earlier yesterday was a brief news conference addressed by Kachale, a judge of the High Court of Malawi.
Flanked by commissioners Arthur Nanthuru, Steve Duwa and Olivia Liwewe, he briefed the media on how the voting day had began, including the challenges faced such as MEC’s failure to open one percent of the polling stations on time and lack of adherence to the Covid-19 preventive measure in some stations.
But at around 7pm, the main tally centre was breathing to life as polling staff from nearby polling stations escorted by security personnel, started arriving.
The anxiety started growing among political party representatives and journalists, but this was just the beginning of a long wait to the eventual presidential poll result being brought to the tally centre manually by district commissioners, and not electronically.
At the end of this heart-throbbing exercise, Malawi will have to elect a President after the High Court’s Constitutional Court nullified last year’s presidential election in which Peter Mutharika was declared winner, a nullification that was also upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.