Commonwealth Observer Group

Malawi Parliamentary and Presidential Elections, May 2004 Statements:


The following Interim Statement was issued this morning by Justice Joseph Warioba, Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group

Commonwealth Observer Teams observed the poll, count and results process closely yesterday across the country, in all three regions.

On the positive side the poll went well. The media, monitors of political parties and properly accredited domestic and international observers were allowed to be present throughout the process.

Despite all the confusion and the inadequacies of the preparations for these elections, the electoral staff rose to' the occasion and should be congratulated. With a few exceptions the polling stations opened on time or soon thereafter. The opening and closing procedures were done  properly

The atmosphere at the polling stations was peaceful and we found no evidence of intimidation at the polls. The confusion resulting from the inadequate registration process caused some problems, especially with regard to voter transfers and absence of names on the computerised roll. However, the electoral staff did their best to ensure that anyone entitled to vote got the opportunity to do so.

Though the voting process was slow in same places because of the use of several rolls, the voters were generally patient, orderly and determined to cast their votes. The vote was generally cast in secrecy and we did not detect instances of cheating. The counting of votes was slow but transparent. The results process continues and we will make a Final judgement on that at a later paint.

Polling day cannot, however, be seen in isolation from the rest of the electoral process. On the negative side we have noted the serious inadequacies in the registration process and the inability of the Electoral Commission to resolve some important issues. We are also deeply concerned about the gross bias of the public media. The misuse of the advantages of incumbency is also a matter of grave concern to us. In our overall assessment of' the whole electoral process we will take these matters into account.

The Commonwealth Observers return to Blantyre later today to prepare our final report, which will be signed in Malawi before the Group departs next week".

For more information contact Geraldine Goh at 08-379-719 Le Meridien Mount Soche Hotel, Blantyre, Malawi Telephone: Blantyre 620588 Fax: Blantyre 620154

Commonwealth Observer Group

Malawi Parliamentary and Presidential Eledions, 18 May 2004
Tel: Blantyre 620588 Fax: Blantyre 620154
Le Meridien Mount Soche Hotel, Blantyre, Malawi


The Commonwealth Observer Group assembled in Blantyre over the weekend. Four of our members are still to arrive, but most of us are here, and we begin our work today.

We are present in your country at the invitation of the Malawi Electoral Commission and after a visit last month by an Assessment Mission whose purpose was to consult with your Electoral Commission, the political parties and civil society. That mission concluded that there would be broad support' for the presence of Commonwealth observers and that they would be free to carry out their work.

Each of us has been selected by the Commonwealth Secretary~ General to participate in our individual capacities, but we represent the whole Commonwealth rather than the countries from which we have come.

We are not here to interfere. We will abide by the laws of Malawi. We are independent of our governments and any organisations to which we belong. Our concern is purely with the electoral process and itscredibility.

We are here to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole; to assess whether, in our own judgement, the conditions exist for a free expression of will by the electors; and to determine if the results of the elections reflect the wishes of the people.We will travel extensively, consult widely and take every opportunity to see the process for ourselves. We look forward to meeting as many people of Malawi as possible.

We will, of course, co-operate closely with the other observers, both international and domestic. At every stage, we will act with impartiality, objectivity and independence.Commonwealth observers were here in January and April to look at the voter registration process and we have had the benefit of their reports. One of our members, Ms Koki Muli, has already been here for a week and will be briefing us shortly.

So that we are as fully briefed as possible before we deploy, we have arranged a series of briefing sessions in this hotel over the next four days. Later today the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, the Chief Elections Officer and their colleagues will brief us. Tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, we will meet with political parties, non­governmental organisations, Commonwealth diplomats and others, and on Friday we will deploy to our base locations around the country. We will inform you of these later in the week.

We will see the end of the immediate pre-election period and on election day itself, we will visit as many polling and counting stations as we can. We cannot visit every polling station or be present everywhere. But we can and will attempt to take a representative sample of the process, so that we can arrive at a broad overview.

After we have seen the count and the results process, we will return to Blantyre to consider our report. In reaching our view about these elections, we will take into account not only our direct observations of the polling and results process, but also the electoral environment as a whole - the legal framework, the voter registration process, civic and voter education, the media, the freedom of the parties to campaign and the freedom of the voters to vote as they wish.

We will write our report here and sign it before we depart, on 24 May. We will then submit our report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn forward it to the Government of Malawi, the Malawi Electoral Commission, the leadership of the political parties and then to all Commonwealth governments. The report will be made publicly available, here and throughout the Commonwealth, in printed form and on the internet.

10 May 2004

For further information contact Geraldine Goh on 08-379-719

Commonwealth Observer Group

Malawi Parliamentary and Presidential Eledions, 18 May 2004
Tel: Blantyre 620588 Fax: Blantyre 620154
Le Meridien Mount Soche Hotel, Blantyre, Malawi


The following Departure Statement was issued this morning by Justice Joseph Warioba, Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group

When we issued, our Interim Statement we said that in arriving at our overall assessment of the electoral process in Malawi we would take a number of factors into account. We have been doing that over the last three days. We have now completed our report, which we have signed and will send to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. He will then forward it to the Head of Government, the Chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, the political parties and all Commonwealth governments. It will then be made public, in printed form and on the Commonwealth web-site.

The conclusion we have reached is that the voters were free to express their wishes on election day itself, but because of the problems with the register, the bias of the state media and the abuse of incumbency the process prior to election day was unfair. Some of the requirements of the democratic process have been met, but others have not.

We have also made a series of recommendations, which we hope will help for the future. We will now return to our countries, with fond memories of the people of Malawi and the warm welcome we received here. Each of us will follow developments in this country closely. We wish the people of Malawi well in all your work to strengthen your democracy. We hope that our Report will contribute to that effort. As individuals we will do whatever we can to help. We know that the Commonwealth as a whole will do so too.

25 May 2004

For more information contact Christopher Child at 08-379-714