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Preparations Registration Campaign Polling & Counting The MEC Position of PAC Message to new Govt. Conclusion

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) was accredited by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to monitor the 2004 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections. We recognize the fact that on 23 May 2004, MEC announced the results where Dr Bingu was Mutharika of UDF was pronounced the winner of the Presidential elections. We are also aware that swearing in ceremony for Dr Mutharika was conducted on 24 May 2004.

In line with its mandate of election, PAC has collected information on the electoral process, including registration of voters, campaigning and polling. PAC strongly believes assessment of elections should embrace the whole process and carefully consider inter-relationship of the different stages. This statement intends to highlight key observations and establish PAC’s position on the 2004 electoral process.

Pre-election preparations
We observation that MEC did not give adequate time to planning in terms of creating an enabling legal environment. The failure to tripartite elections and other changes in the electoral system was mainly due to last minute attempts, which raised suspicion in some stakeholders such as political parties. A longer consultative process would have increased chances of success. The fact that there were no constituency demarcation for lack of resources seemed to have been well received by consensus of stakeholders.

Registration Process
Despite a two week extension, the registration process was uncoordinated and characterized by shortage of materials such camera equipment and stationery. The development, which was frustrating to potential registrants, affected the confidence of citizens in the electoral process and in MEC. It created loopholes for manipulation. Although substantial number of new voters was registered, the resulting voters’ roll remained with anomalies and inconsistencies such us missing names and voters without photos. Our view is that these irregularities undermined voter’s rights and security of the voter’s roll against rigging.

We also note that verification of the voter’s roll was inefficient, inaccessible and provided no adequate time to address irregularities that were identified. Our monitors reports indicated that MEC was not able to distribute voter’s roll for inspection to centers in many parts of the country. However, it is worthy noting that Malawians conducted themselves in a peaceful manner. PAC concludes that the voter registration was unsatisfactory. Several issues such as serial numbers collections, use of traditional authorities were never addressed by the Electoral Commission.

During the official campaign, the state run electronic media – MBC and TVM – were biased towards the incumbent UDF party, giving it nearly 90 per cent of airtime and positive coverage. The opposition parties and candidates shared the remaining airtime in which they got mostly negative coverage. Media monitoring reports from MEC and civil society attest to this fact. In addition, the ruling candidate enjoyed unlimited use of state resources trough frequent presidential rallies, which could go up to more than three per week in different parts of the country. This trend amounted to violation of the electoral law, the Communications Act and the Republican Constitution.

In parts of the country, campaign on the ground was hampered by intimidation and violence mainly perpetrated by UDF youth groups against non-UDF candidates. Almost in all cases, these youths operated above the law as police were not able to arrest or charge them due to political interferences. The ruling party also used chiefs to intimidate opposition parties from campaigning in certain areas as observed in Machinga, Balaka and Kasungu.

Polling and Counting
The polling process was generally accessible, smooth and peaceful. There were a few hindrances especially relating to voter’s roll, which our view could not have affected the general operation of the polling. The counting at poling center level was equally smoth and peaceful.

However, transmission of results from centers to the Returning Officer was undermined by delays in transportation of results, unprofessional conduct of some polling staff and errors or manipulation in documents of figures. The announcement of unofficial results by radio MBC and later TVM occasionally tended to distort real figures on the ground thereby misinforming the public.

We observed that MEC delayed collection of district results, which compelled to fast track the tabulation of national results. It is worrisome to learn that MEC announced national results while some districts, for example Lilongwe, had not resolved verification of figures and were forced to overlook this critical stage. A number of tally sheets in the elections have not been endorsed by stakeholders because of unresolved matters. In view of this, it is highly likely that figures in the election results are not accurate.

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC)
Based on what PAC has been raising in this country, MEC was bent at siding with the ruling party. The issue of not leveling the playing field was defended by the commission for no apparent reason. The issue of serial numbers and transparency during the tabulation of voters demonstrated how the commission was biased in conducting these elections. As PAC we conclude that MEC lacks sound leadership and commitment. As a professional body, the commission should not have rushed in analyzing the results the way it did.

Position of PAC
PAC wishes to inform the public that as an organization involved in good governance and democracy, we are not bent on attacking individuals as such. While Dr Bingu wa Muthalika has been sworn in, PAC’s interest is not on who has won but the transparent processes un analysing the results. As such, we wish to register our concern to the nation that using shortcut to political ascendancy is sometimes dangerous for lack of legitimacy. As an institution in democracy of good governance, we are not interested in the results only buy also the process. We believe the conduct of MEC cannot be defended by any reasonable minded persons. The Commission lacked total transparency in analyzing the results.

We congratulate Dr Bingu was Mutharika for his swearing in ceremony but we strongly suspect that the electoral processes were full of fraud. We do not expect that people of reasonable mind can refer to the process as free and fair. As PAC we do not believe in trading justice for diplomacy. We will fight for justice and truth for the betterment of Malawians.

Our message to the New Government
While shortcuts have been made in the electoral process, we advise president Dr Bingu wa Mutharika to fight corruption at all levels and investigate all alleged big corruption scandals we faced in the last ten years. We believe if new leadership continues with the same stories of corruption scandals then justice will never be realized in this country. Let us not close our eyes because now we are in big positions. In Zambia our friends have stood by their words to investigate senior officials in power previous and present. We believe that people of strong political will should first examine what happened with the previous administration, otherwise what we do with donor funds and taxpayers money will remain a non-starter.

In general, PAC is of the view that the 2004 elections have to a great extent failed to meet standards for free and fair elections as the analysis demonstrates. The elections were grossly unfair particularly in terms of campaign, management of voter’s roll and tabulation of results. The electoral process was seriously affected by lack of independence in MEC, political arrogance and impunity in the ruling party and, ineffective state institutions particularly police and pubic funded media. We believe that the manner in which 2004 elections were conducted sets a poor benchmark for elections in Malawi and cannot be regarded as an honourable precedent. We fear that legitimacy of our president will be doubted. We hope that our new president will perform by making use of the technocrats in various ministries unlike the case in the past regime.

Our appeal
We wish to warn leaders in government, political parties, media and civil society that if we continue condoning low quality management of electoral process, we shall risk diluting our democratization process and legitimacy of government. Such a scenario has the potential to destabilize our peaceful nation and to destroy hopes that Malawians cherished when we ushered in the democratic era.

Finally, we call upon the resignation of Jutice J Kalaile because of his to administer the electoral process in a satisfactory manner.

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