SADC PARIAMENTARY FORUM ELECTION OBSERVER MISSION TO MALAWI PRESIDENTIAL AND PARLIAMENTARY
1 The SADC Parliamentary Forum
The SADC Parliamentary Forum Elections Observer Mission to the Malawi Elections 2004 came in response to the invitation from the Malawi Electoral Commission. The Fifty-one member Mission is composed of 26 Members of Parliamentary Forum Secretariat. The Mission Comprises of male and female Members of Parliament from both the opposition and ruling parties from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Leader of the Election Observation Mission is Hon. E Mnangagwa, a member of the Executive Committee of the Forum, Speaker of the Parliament of Zimbabwe. The co-deputies of the Mission are Hon. A Hamukwaya of the National Assembly of Angola and Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Inter Parliamentary Cooporation and Hon H Mahase of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Lesotho and a member of the Standing Committee on the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. Dr Kasuka Mutukwa, the Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, was the over coordinator of the activities of the Observer Mission. The Chairperson of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Hon N. Motsamia Speaker of the National Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho launched the Mission on 6 May 2004.
The Malawi Presidential and Parliamentary 2004 is the tenth in a series of election observation by the Forum including:
Namibia (1999), Mozambique (1999), Zimbabwe-parliamentary (2000), Mauritius (2000), Tanzania (2000), Zambia (2001), Zimbabwe-presidential (2002), Lesotho (2002), and South Africa (2004).
The Forum Policy is to observe the different phases of the electoral process, namely, the pre-election, election and post-election. To this end the Forum observed the Voter Registration exercise in Malawi from the 5th to 18th January 2004. Prior to deploying to the districts, the Forum conducted an orientation Workshop for the MPS and staff in Blantyre where the Malawi Electoral Commission, representatives of some of the contesting political parties, the Human Rights Commission and the Media Monitoring Unit at the Malawi Electoral Commission made presentations aimed at familiarizing the Team with the political environment and various electoral issues.
SADC PF Malawi Elections Observer Mission
22 May 2004
2 Deployment and Method of Work
The Mission deployed thirteen Teams composed of two MPs and one Parliamentary staff in such a way that they were resident in the regions in order to cover all the districts in the Southern, Central and Northern Regions. In addition the Mission Leader, Hon. E Mnangagwa visited some districts in the Southern and Central Regions to observe the electoral process in order to familiarize himself with the situations on the ground. The Mission also had consultations with other international observer missions to exchange experiences.
While in the field the Teams undertook the following in accordance with the Terms of Reference:
§ Consult widely at national, regional, district and local levels with political parties, independents, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Regional Electoral Commissioners, Returning Officers, District Commissioners, Police, Civil Society organizations, media, local monitors, other international and regional observers, and other relevant stakeholders.
§ Observed political party campaigns, rallies and whistle stop meetings
§ Had discussions with police officials to assess the security situation
§ Assessed media coverage of the elections at both national and local levels, through newspapers, television and radio and other fora
§ Determined the transparency of the electoral process and the functioning of the electoral institutions and their preparedness for elections
§ Noted the presence of local monitors, regional and international observers and held consultative meetings with such groups and
§ Visited polling stations to assess their preparedness for the elections
The Malawi Constitution in Chapter VI and section 67 stipulates that elections should be held on a Tuesday in the third week of May in the year in which the National Assembly is dissolved within a period not exceeding seven days from that Tuesday as it happened in the 2004 elections, which complied with this requirement and the postponement of elections day was from 18th May to 20th May 2004. Malawi fulfills the Norms and standards for Elections in the SADC Region requirement for having dates for general elections fixed in the constitution ad is commended for this as well as respecting the legal provisions within its own laws.
SADC PF Malawi Elections Observer Mission
22 May 2004
2 The Political Environment
The Mission found that the political environment generally was peaceful as demonstrated by numerous rallies, whistle stop campaigns, some degree of tolerance among part supporters, very few reported cases of election related violence, orderly queues on voting day and the display of great enthusiasm among Malawians to vote. However, the Mission noted with concern the handing out of cash and materials inducements during some campaigns, although it was unclear if this was legal or ethical. The Mission felt that this could undermine the democratic process.
3 Conflict Resolution Mechanisms
The establishment of conflict resolution institution is commendable in particular the Multi Party Liaison Committees at district level that aimed and resolving election related conflicts at an early stage. The Mission calls for the strengthening of the National Electoral Consultative Forum as a conflict resolution mechanism.
a. The Polling Centres
The Commission set up 3884 polling centers in which 8238 polling stations were established. The Mission visited a total of 657 polling centers in all the districts and all of them were in public places such as schools and community centers as required by the law. For a country the size of Malawi, this large number of polling stations was commendable and made voting faster.
b. Voting Materials
The Mission established that most of the non-sensitive materials had been distributed to the districts in time and the Mission through its field teams was able to witness the movement of the materials to the centers.
c. The Voters’ Roll
The SADC Parliamentary Forum Mission observed the existence of three voters’ rolls – 1999 voters’ roll, the voter registration manual voters’ roll, and the computerized voters’ roll. Despite earlier concerns that the three voters’ rolls would cause confusion among the electorate on the voting day, the voting process went well due to instructions given to the electoral staff by the MEC and the presence of
electoral officials whose duty it was to ascertain whether the voter appeared in any of the three rolls and whether they had the registration
certificate. The MEC provided a universal solution that the manual voters’ roll, the computerized voters’ roll and the records available at
teach center would be used on the polling day, Highlighting that only registered voters would be eligible to vote.
d. Malawi Electoral Commission Preparediness
The Mission would like to underscore the fact that election management is a complex process. The logistical and administrative arrangements to be put in place are enormous. The MEC faced serious challenges in this regard. The challenges included the printing of ballot papers that had to be done in the presence of party representatives, reconciling excess ballot papers with actual voter figures, the training of Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and other support staff, managing an effective program of voter civic education distribution of voting materials to all parts of the country, addressing and investigative/aggressive media, and contending with court challenges. The Commission appeared over stretched. Despite all these challenges, the MEC managed to distribute voting material to all the centers. There were no reports of polling centers/stations failing to open because of lack of materials. However, for future elections, the Mission would like to suggest that the MEC should give itself sufficient time to prepare for the elections, especially when the date of elections is known five years in advance. In addition a timetable of elections must involve all stakeholders to enhance transparency.
e. Gender Representation and Youth Participation
The SADC Declaration on Gender and Development adopted and signed by the SADC Heads of State or Government on 8th September 1997 in Blantyre, Malawi commits countries to ensuring the equal representation of women and me in the decision-making structures of member states and SADC structures by the year 2005.
The Mission found that women were well represented as voters, however they were under represented as candidates and as registration officials, particularly at the presiding officer level. In the Northern Region for example 10% of returning officers were women. Out of a total of 1268 candidates contesting in this election, 155 were women while 1114 were men.
The Mission observed that political parties do not have measures or mechanisms to achieve the objectives of the Declaration in the present context. As a consequence, some women candidates were forced to stand as independents because of lace of intra party support.
The Mission further observed a high level of participation in the electoral process by the youth of Malawi, which augurs well for the future of the country.
f. Media Coverage of the Electoral Process
The Mission found that the coverage of electoral related issues by both the state controlled Television Malawi and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation was tilted in favor of the ruling party. In the field the Mission noted that campaign rallies of the ruling party were extensively covered while there was no coverage of opposition political parties campaign rallies. This was supported by the survey run by the Media Monitoring Unit of the Malawi Electoral Commission. The newspapers on the other hand appeared to present a balanced coverage of political activities in the weeks leading up to elections day. There was also a noticeable flow of information through church related organizations. The Mission also noted that male candidates from both ruling and opposition parities received better coverage in the newspaper than female candidates.
g. Voter Education
The Mission found that some voter and civic education had been undertaken by, both the accredited NGOs, churches, Civic organizations, other non political party entities and the Commission. However, some of the accredited organizations were not able to undertake voter education because of lack of fund. All stakeholders including the Commission generally acknowledged the need for extensive and continuous voter and civic education. The need for a comprehensive and continuous civic and voter education programs is consistent with the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC Region. Such programs should include awareness creation on the need for women’s participation and representation in positions of power and decision-making and voting procedures.
h. The Poll and the Count
The Mission commends MEC for developing a practice whereby voters are counted at the polling stations. It observed that counting at the polling station made the process faster and transparency. Polling was orderly and peaceful. The electoral officials were actively assisting the voters. However, the process to verify results and transporting them between the polling center/station, the District Commissioner’s Office (Returning Officer) and COMESA. Results Center takes rather too long resulting in frustration among together in improving upon this process.
III) GOOD PRACTICES FROM THE MALAWI ELECTIONS
The Mission noted the following as good practices from the Malawi election:
§ The provision in the Constitution for an election date that is fixed
§ Political tolerance among supporters of different political parties and independents.
§ Though introduced rather late, the computerization of the voters’ roll is a positive development, if it can be constructively managed
§ The open acknowledgement of challenges on the part of MEC
§ The use of transparent boxes
§ The establishment of more than one polling station with a polling center, to facilitate fast voting and reduce long queues.
§ Conducting a poll in the open air where the weather permits
§ The counting of ballots at the polling centers
§ Generally high turnout of the electorate and youth enthusiasm to vote
§ Allowing Presidential candidates and running mates to stand at Parliamentary level as well
§ Established of multi party liaison committee
§ The participatory nature of counting process, confirmation of results through the signing of results slips and the posting of such results enhances transparency and agreement by all on the results of the elections.
IV AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
The Mission noted the following areas as requiring improvement:
§ The Mission suggests that MEC should attend to the Voters’ roll and the anomalies detected and acknowledged so that there is only one voters’ roll that will be used after adequate time for verification by the voters.
§ The Television Malawi should consider taking an active role in informing the stakeholders.
§ There is need to strengthen the National Elections Consultative Forum as an effective mechanism of engaging various electoral stakeholders in conflict resolution.
§ MEC is urged to develop a comprehensive and continuous program of voter civic education that is adequately funded and embraces other stakeholders.
§ The government and MEC are urged to work together to establish a national identity systems, which would form the basis of a voter’s roll.
§ MEC should use its legal mandate to ensure balanced media coverage of the contesting parties in future election and curtail the use of derogatory language.
§ The Malawi Government with MEC should devise a suitable electoral system which, will enhance gender representation.
§ All stakeholders are urged to consider establishing a code of conduct that should also regulate the use of public resources and handouts for political gains
V. THE MISSION’S OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
In light of the foregoing it is the Mission’s opinion that the Malawi Presidential and Parliamentary Elections 2004 provided the people of Malawi with an opportunity to freely exercise their democratic right to vote and voted for.