STATEMENT OF THE AFRICAN UNION OBSERVER TEAM ON THE PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY
ELECTIONS IN THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI HELD ON 20TH MAY 2004
|Pre-election Observations||Deployment of Members||General Comments||Appreciation|
1.1 At the invitation of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC); and in pursuance of the Agenda of the African Union with regard to promoting and protection of human and peoples’ rights on the continent; and, in the spirit of the Declaration on the principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, adopted by the Assembly of the African Union in July 2002, in Durban, South Africa; H.E. Prof. Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairperson of the Commission of African Union sent a nine-member Mult-discipline Team of Observers to participate in the 2004 Malawi Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, held on 20th May 2004.
1.2 The Afrian Union Observer Team led by Hon. Dr, William F. Shija, MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of Tanzania, and Member of the Pan African Parliamentatians, member of electoral management bodies and civil society organizations from various African countries and African Union officials. The observers were in Malawi from 8th to 25 May 2004.
1.3 The Team Leader was assisted by:
Hon. Zaddock M. Syongoh, MP
Kenya National Assembly, Member of Pan African Parliament - Vice Leader
Other members of the team were:
2. PRE-ELECTION OBSERVATION ACTIVITIES
2.1 In accordance with the standard practice of consulting with as many observer missions and other stakeholders as possible, the African Union Observer Team held consultative meetings with the Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Malawi, the SADC Parliamentary Forum Observer group, the Council of Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA) and the European Union Observer Group. The Team also attended a briefing session for observers by the Malawi Electoral Commission. These meetings and briefings provided very useful information which helped broaden and deepen the understanding and appreciation by the Observer Team of the legal and Constitutional framework, the social, economic and political background as well as the state of preparedness of the Malawi Electoral Commission and the people of Malawi for the elections.
2.2 The Team was privileged to attend seven political rallies and was thereby able to observe and assess the nature of the political campaigns and the general mood of the people.
3. DEPLOYMENT OF MEMBERS OF THE TEAM
3.1 The members of the African Union Observer Team were deployed on Sunday, 16th May 2004 to the three (3) Regional Constituencies of the Republic of Malawi. These were NORTHERN REGION, covering Mzuzu, Rumphi, Mzimba, Karonga and Nkhatabay, the CENTRAL REGION, covering Lilongwe, Mchinji, Kasungu and Salima; and SOUTHERN REGION, covering Blantyre, Zomba, Thyolo, Mulanje and Mangochi.
3.2 The Regional Teams held discussions in their respective provinces with officials of the Electoral Commission (MEC), political party officials and activists, police and security personnel and the general public. The Teams were able to observe and assess the general political atmosphere prevailing in their respective areas of deployment. Overall, the Team visited and observed the voting process at 70 polling stations across the country.
4. GENERAL COMMENTS/OBSERVATIONS OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND THE ELECTIONS
4.1 Nature of Campaigns
The nature of the campaigns was of great concern. The campaigns dis not focus on issues as such but on personalities and character assassination. The use of language was often intimidating provocative and insulting. The practice of handouts was disturbing feature. The Observer Team will be happy to see a culture emerging in Malawi of clean and dignified campaigns that address and help the voters make informed decisions as they exercise their right to choose leaders.
4.2 Media Coverage
The Team observed the excessive use of public media and other public resources by the ruling party. The fact that this did not provide a level-playing field for all political parties was a matter of concern.
4.3 General Issues
The Observer Team noted that out of 1,258 candidates contesting the elections, only 154 were women candidates. This means that for the next five years the number of women members of Parliament will be very low. This is against the spirit of the SADC decision that SADC Parliaments should have at least 30% women members of Parliament.
4.4 Voters Roll
The controversy surrounding the voters roll not only exposed the weaknesses of the Malawi Electoral Commission but affected the morale and conduct of the elections. The voters register is a very important document that determines who may vote in an election. The very fact that there were problems in reconciling the figures of eligible voters, that the voters roll had not been finalized early enough to allow for proper verification and resulting in court action and court order to change the elections date, pointed to insufficient capacity of the Malawi Electoral Commission to adequately prepare for the elections. This one area calls for much improvement in the management of future elections.
4.5 Training of Polling Officers
It was apparent to the African Union Observer Team that there was inadequate training of polling officers and that this to a large extent affected the quality and conduct of the polls. The late opening of some polling stations, the delays in counting and tallying the votes, the sending back and forth of some of the results for verification and signatures, all of which ultimately affected the timely release of the final results, attest to the inadequacy of the training given. There is room for improvement if quality and confidence in the system is to be assured in future elections.
4.6 Conduct of Elections
The Team was happy to observe that the elections were conducted peacefully and that the voters did not only come out in large numbers to exercise their right to elect leaders of their choice but exercised a lot of maturity and patience. The Team was also happy to note that the spread of polling stations was very adequate and widely spread out throughout the country, thereby facilitating participation of the people through easy access.
4.7 Pre-set Date of Elections
The Team was happy to note that the legislative framework for holding elections in Malawi is one of the best in Africa where the date for holing elections is provided for in the Constitution and strictly observed.
The African Union Observer Team commends the Government of Malawi and the Malawi Electoral Commission for engaging the people ion democratic elections in fulfillment of the African Union Declaration on Elections, Democracy and Good Governance.
5.1 The Observer Team wishes to express its appreciation for having been invited and given the opportunity to observe the electoral process in Malawi and thereby fulfilling the spirit of the African Union Declaration to be fully engaged in the strengthening of the democratization process particularly by observing and monitoring elections in member state.
5.2 The Team whishes to congratulate the people of Malawi for violence-free elections. Our overall assessment is that the elections were conducted in a free and peaceful atmosphere. The Team therefore prays that all parties will accept the results and that there weill be a smooth transfer of power and a spirit of reconciliation in the interest of progress for the nation of Malawi.
6. FINAL REPORT
6.1 The final report of the African Union Observer Team, to follow soon, will further underscore details of its findings, observations and recommendations on the elections and, in general the organization and conduct of the 2004 Malawi Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
Issued on 23 May 2004
By the African Union Observer Team, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Hon Dr William F. Shija, MP
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of Tanzania and Member of the Pan African Parliament
Observers Reports Home