ELECTORAL INSTITUTE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
Lilongwe, May 22, 2004
INTERIM STATEMENT BY THE EISA ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION
MALAWI PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS MAY 20 2004
At the invitation of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) deployed a mission to observe the Malawi 2004 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections. This is the mission’s preliminary assessment of the elections. The assessment covers the pre-polling, polling, counting and the early stage of the tabulation of results. The mission cannot make any pronouncement on the overall post election phase at this stage. However, EISA will continue to follow the process so that the final report can provide a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process, including the announcement of the results.
1.1 About EISA
EISA is a regional organization which seeks to strengthen and promote electoral processes, good governance and democratic values through research, capacity building and advocacy. The head office is located in Johannesburg and the scope of work covers the entire SADC region and extends beyond.
1.2 Mission Composition
The mission was composed of 36 member drawn from electoral missions, civil society organizations and scholars from nine SADC countries namely, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The mission included also few delegates from beyond SADC region.
Sir Ketumile Masire, former President of Botswana and patron of EISA let the mission. The deputy Mission Leader was Mr Denis Kadima, the Executive Directot of EISA.
Members of the ELSA mission stated arriving in Malawi on May 9, 2004. The mission met various Malawian election stakeholders and observed events until May 21, 2004. The entire mission will have left the country by was May 24, 2004
The Mission deployed ten teams to the three regions of Malawi as follows: (a) two teams in the Northern Region, covering selected rural and urban areas namely Mzuzu, Mzimba North and Nkhata Bay, (b) five teams in the Central Region, covering Lilongwe City, Lilongwe North, Mchinji, Salima and Dowa and (c) three times in the Southern Region observing the process in selected areas of Blantyre, Limbe, Zomba, Thyolo, Mulanje and Mangochi. The Mission visited 181 voting stations in urban and rural areas throughout the country.
1.4 Method of Work
In order to assess the 2004 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections in Malawi, EISA conducted various activities covering the pre-election phase, the polling phase and will continue to follow post-election developments. These activities included:
Due to limited financial resources available, it was not possible for the mission to undertake long-term observation. EISA developed and innovative method of information gathering and sharing that would ensure that members of the mission and other interested parties were kept abreast of the events which took place during the electoral process. Malawi based researchers were contracted to gather information on critical election-related matters. This information was published fortnightly in Elections Update series, which was widely distributed electronically and in print.
Members of the mission held meetings with various electoral stakeholders, including representatives of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Political Parties, civil society organizations, the media and scholars. The mission also met domestic observer groups as well as other international observer team. Meeting were held at both national and regional levels. These meetings provided first hand information on the different stakeholders’ assessment of the process.
Our teams also attended political party rallies. After the High Court ordered the postponement of the polling, the mission had an opportunity to observe the voters’ roll inspection process that took place between May 14 and 19.
Observation of Voting and Counting
The members of the mission were deployed in the field from May 16, 2004 where they held further meetings with election stakeholders before observing the voting and counting on May 20, 2004.
1.5 Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Region
The EISA observer Mission’s assessment of the Malawi 2004 elections is based on the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring and Observation in the SADC Regions PEMMO. PEMMO is a set of guidelines against which an election can be measured to assess whether it is credible and legitimate and if the outcome reflects the will of those who cast their ballots. PEMMO was developed by EISA in partnership with Elections Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF) which comprise all the electoral management codes in the SADC region. These principles are the result of a region-wide consultation process with electoral stakeholders, in particular electoral management bodies and civil society organizations for whom election observation is a core activity. The principles contained in the PEMMO are compatible with the legal framework governing elections in Malawi.
The principles cover the whole electoral process including the period before, during and after poll. They provide an objective standard against which an election can be measured. Furthermore, they constitute a useful tool in the post-election review and for electoral reforms. For observer, PEMMO also serves as guidelines for how to conduct oneself as an observer during electoral process.
After the April 2004 national and provincial elections in South Africa, the Malawi 2004 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections are the second elections where EISA has used PEMMO as the basis of its assessment.
2. FINDINGS OF THE MISSION
The EISA Elections Observer Mission, basing itself on the PEMMO as a guideline, made the following findings:
2.1 Voter Registration and Voters’ Roll
By all accounts, the voter registration process was deficient, resulting in inflated voter registration figures. The cleaning process resulted in a computerized voters’ roll, which contained other deficiencies including omission of names and photographs. In order to deal with this problem, the MEC used three deferent documents to identify eligible voters during the voting process namely, the computerized voter’ roll, manual voters’ roll and of 1999, and record cards. This caused confusion, delay and possible disenfranchisement of voters.
In addition, complaints by voters whose names did not appear in the roll were not addressed in a consistent manner in the various polling centers and no corrections seemed to have been made in spite of the extension of the inspection period.
2.2 Media Coverage
The mission was concerned by reports of unbalanced coverage of the elections by the public media in favour of the ruling party. Although the electoral law provides for the enforcement of media guidelines by MEC, the Commission seems to have failed to ensure fair media coverage for all parties and candidates.
2.3 The Malawi Electoral Commission
The Malawi Electoral Commission is constitutionally empowered to supervise and deliver credible, free and fair elections. However, the composition and procedure of appointment of the commission along party lines has resulted in the current situation whereby the commission is largely perceived as partisan. As a result, what could be genuine administrative and logistical shortcomings of the MEC can be interpreted as deliberate attempts to manipulate the electoral process. The Mission noted that the direct dependence of the MEC on the government for its funding has the potential to further compromise its independence vis-ŕ-vis the incumbent government. It was also noted that Electoral Commission appeared to be unwilling to fully exercise the powers vested in it by the constitution and the Electoral laws (ie access to public media). Furthermore, the Commission seemed to lack the institutional capacity to organize and manage some crucial aspects of the electoral process such as the compilation of the voters’ roll.
2.4 Use of public resources by the Incumbent Government
The Mission received many complaints that the ruling party took advantage of its incumbency to campaign for its candidate using public resources.
2.5 Constitutional and Legal Framework
The constitutional and legal framework in Malawi guarantees fundamental freedoms and human rights. In addition, the Electoral Law provides for mechanisms to address conflict in the electoral process. If fully implemented, this framework would further contribute to creating environment conducive to free and fair democratic elections.
The mission applauds the role played by the judiciary during this electoral process by its timely adjudication of election related court cases.
2.6 Electoral System and Representative of Women
Malawi has adopted the Single Member plurality electoral System. The mission noted that while the system appears to have allowed independent candidates to contest the elections, it has failed to promote meaningful participation of women as candidates. The mission was concerned by the fact that only 154 out of 1268 candidates were women (12%). It should be recalled that the SADC Blantyre Declaration on Gender and Development advocates a minimum 30% representation of women in decision-making positions.
2.7 Voting Atmosphere
The mission commends the people of Malawi for their commitment to democracy as demonstrated by their peacefulness, patience and enthusiasm during the voting.
2.8 Voting Stations
The mission was satisfied that MEC established enough polling stations to give voters easy access to the poll. In addition, the layout of the polling station allowed a smooth flow of the voting process as well as ensuring the secrecy of the ballot.
2.9 Intra-party Democracy
The mission received reports and information that the selection of candidates by political parties was not conducted in a democratic manner.
The EISA mission encourages electoral stakeholders in Malawi to build on the positive experiences of these elections.
At the same time the EISA mission calls upon all the electoral stakeholders to conduct a through post-electoral review, which would help the country improve on the conduct of future electoral process.
Specifically with recommend the following:
§ The Electoral Commission should consolidate the voters’ roll and documents in order to produce one accurate and reliable register of voters, which would be updated continuously. In addition the Commission should consider having a continuous voter registration process.
§ The electoral stakeholders should agree on an appropriate framework to ensure equitable access to the public resources by all the contesting political parties and candidates.
§ The Commission should put in place the necessary mechanisms to enforce media regulations pertaining to the electoral process so as to ensure equitable access to the public media for a political parties and candidates.
§ For greater financial independence, the MEC should be adequately funded and accountable to Parliament.
§ The mission recommends that the political parties adopt clear democratic principles in line with the PEMMO in the selection of their election candidates. These principles should include provision for gender balance.
§ In order to ensure consistency in the provision of voter education, the MEC should provide overall guidance and supervision of all role players in voter education.
Basing itself on the guidelines enshrined in the ECF/EISAPEMMO, the EISA Election Observer Mission concludes that the elections in Malawi were substantially free. The mission notes however that the playing field was not leveled, which mad it difficult for opposition parties and candidates to have equitable access to public resources including the state media.
The mission will issue a final report within the next two months, which will be distributed to a wide range of electoral stakeholders in Malawi and abroad.
Finally the mission wishes to congratulate the people of Malawi for their peaceful and orderly participation in the elections.
Sir Ketumire Masire Denis Kadima
Mission Leader Deputy Mission Leader
Denis Kadima +27 82 855 6136
Sa Ngidi +27 72 7185071