Indications from unofficial results in yesterday’s by-elections in three constituencies and three Local Government wards showed that opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) took a commanding lead in five out of the six areas.
Effectively, the unofficial results showed that voters rejected the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whose campaign was marshalled by President Peter Mutharika who addressed rallies in the three constituencies last week.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is set to announce official results for the by-elections in Blantyre this afternoon. But the unofficial results, as we went to press at midnight, pointed to DPP losing in areas hitherto regarded as its stronghold, notably Ndirande-Makata Ward in Blantyre Malabada Constituency and Nsanje Lalanje Constituency.
MCP’s imminent victory in Nsanje Lalanje could widely be attributed to efforts of its new recruit, businessperson and former Cabinet minister Mohammed Sidik Mia, who is regarded as an influential figure in the Shire Valley districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje. This is the first time since the 1999 General Elections that MCP is set to win a seat in the Southern Region.
The by-elections were held in Nsanje Lalanje Constituency and Ndirande Makata Ward in Blantyre Malabada Constituency in the Southern Region and Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies as well as Mtsiriza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency and Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency in the Central Region.
In Nsanje Lalanje, MCP director of elections Maxwell Thyolera said in an interview around 11pm that the party’s monitors reported that MCP candidate Lawrence Sitolo won in 11 out of the 13 centres, with over half the votes cast counted.
He said results from the remaining two centres could not change the results.
Sitolo was ahead of DPP’s Gladys Ganda, widow of the area’s departed legislator Sam Ganda, and independent candidate Winnie Wakudyanaye.
In Lilongwe City South East, MCP candidate Ulemu Msungama got 6 722 votes of the 11 616 cast against 3 597 for his closest challenger, DPP’s Reuben Ngwenya. Other candidates, Ellen Kadango and Christopher Manja had 311 and 891 votes, respectively while 95 were null and void.
Former president Joyce Banda’s running mate in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, Sosten Gwengwe, was also leading in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency far ahead of DPP’s Bruno Daka.
In Ndirande Makata Ward, MCP candidate Thom Litchowa obtained 969 votes against 910 for DPP’s Thom Lita, 363 for Ishmael Chilambo of United Democratic Front (UDF) and Mathews Shawa of People’s Party (PP) had 102 votes, according to results filed at the ward tally centre.
In Mtsiriza Ward, results announced at the tally centre indicated MCP candidate Kinwel Frank Zikaola got 921 votes compared to 825 for Julio Benedicto Jumbe of DPP and 169 for UDF’s Brighton Golombe Edward. There were 39 null and void votes. The area has 11 621 registered voters.
In Mayani North Ward, ZBS television reported that DPP candidate won the seat with 2 390 votes against 1 690 for MCP candidate and 219 for UDF candidate.
On the eve of the by-elections, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said she was confident her commission would give Malawians a free, fair and credible election.
She expressed joy that all poll stakeholders turned up, were seen working together and were satisfied that all materials were in place.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said she was hopeful the peaceful environment would prevail on voting day.
As part of electoral reforms, results will be presented both in figures and words at the centres to avoid suspicions of manipulation of figures in transit to the main tally centres.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) executive director Steve Duwa also urged contesting parties to observe peace and voters to turn up in their large numbers to chalk up a record of continued political maturity.
By-elections in Lilongwe City South East followed a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal order for a rerun after noting irregularities in the parliamentary race on May 20 2014 whereas in the other five areas the vacancies arose following deaths of office holders.
The court nullified the May 20 2014 parliamentary results in Lilongwe City South East Constituency that declared Bentley Namasusu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner.
MCP contestant in the elections, Ulemu Msungama, challenged the results on the basis of irregularities, something the court agreed with.
Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafik Hajat, in an earlier interview with The Nation last month, said the by-elections stand as a popularity test for two of the contesting parties—DPP and MCP. n