Preliminary Report on the Malawian Parliamentary and Presidential election
On a positive note:
Most of the people we spoke to have singled out freedom of speech as being a major attribute that has come about as a result of the democratization process.
There was very little violence observed during the campaign phase. The independent media although limited in coverage was seen as being balanced. Political parties and independent candidates who sought permission to hold rallies were readily granted such permission on a first come first served basis. People were made aware of the election and how to vote by the different party functionaries and campaigns.
Areas of concern:
The ruling party was using state resources including the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation which the other parties were not privy to. There was manipulation of the rural voters by the ruling UDF by giving them food parcels and money.
Traditional leaders were at times influenced by senior chiefs to disallow rallies by the opposition in their areas. The ruling party in most cases was not even bothering to apply for permission to hold rallies. The ruling party was in some areas accused of disturbing other aspiring candidates' rallies.
It would also be Ideal for the electoral code of conduct to be made law so that all political aspirants are bound by it. This would curb the misuse of state resources, violence and doling out of money to voters. It would also empower the Malawi Electoral Commission to deal with wayward politicians which may even include disqualification. There is need to attend to the issue of the composition of the Malawi Electoral Commission. Ideally this body should comprise of persons who are apolitical who apply for the job of being commissioner and are not sponsored by political parties, A major anomaly in the arrangement currently in place is that even if these persons are sponsored by their political parties the State President still has a right to veto their nomination to the commission. The President has a right to even veto a candidate for the chairperson of the commission who would have been nominated by the Judicial Service Commission. It would be ideal if traditional authorities were not under the control of the President. This point is being advanced in light of the fact that most of those traditional authorities who have been promoted to be senior chiefs have abused their powers to advance the cause of the ruling party. There was a general perception throughout the country that the police were not dealing with errant behavior by politicians in the ruling party who were disrupting legitimate campaigns by opposition parties and independent candidates.
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