23 May 2014

Malawi President Calls for Vote Audit

Photo: European Union Election Observation Mission
Voters in a queue at Kanjedza School in Blantyre.

A spokesman for Malawi President Joyce Banda says although partial results of Tuesday's elections gave opposition leader Peter Mutharika a narrow lead, it doesn't mean the president is losing the vote.

However, Presidential Press Secretary Steven Nhlane says President Banda is concerned about the release of results while people are still voting in some parts of the country.

This comes after President Banda Thursday called on the Malawi Electoral Commission to carry out an immediate manual audit of the vote counting process.

She said there are some "serious irregularities" in the counting and announcement of results.

Press Secretary Nhlane said the irregularities the president refers to include vote rigging, ballot tampering and multiple voting.

"The president is concerned that there have been some irregularities. The first has to do with the fact that materials were not delivered in time resulting in some polling stations not opening on voting day; also the fact that results are being announced while people are voting. She felt that could influence the trend. She also felt that in many instances, there were more votes than were registered in some particular polling stations," he said.

Nhlane said that as a result of the alleged irregularities, President Banda has asked the Malawi Electoral Commission to conduct an immediate manual audit of the vote counting process. He denied President Banda is losing the vote.

"It's not that she is losing in the vote count. Of course in the votes that have so far been counted, it is the other candidate that has taken early lead, but that does not mean she is losing. I think we can only say she has lost after all the votes have been counted. But what she was concerned about is that certain things have not been done well and that there is need, for example, to stop the release of unofficial results while some people are still voting," Nhlane said.

Local reports late Thursday said a court rejected a request from the ruling People's Party to stop the electoral commission and other broadcasters from announcing official and unofficial results.

In another development, opposition candidate Peter Mutharika, the brother of the late President Bingun wa Mutharika reportedly said security agents were sent to search his house for a "hacking machine".

Nhlane said police surrounded Mr. Mutharika's house but did not enter it. He also said President Banda did not talk about a "hacking machine" but was concerned about the fact that the phones of some ruling party monitors did not work as they were supposed to.

"The only concern that she had was that some monitors' phones for the ruling party were hacked or could not perform as they were supposed to. They could not communicate.

The ruling PP party also alleges that the Malawi Electoral Commission's digital election management platform had been hacked by supporters of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party of Peter Mutharika.

The electoral commission acknowledged it experienced some logistical challenges, but said it is dealing the difficulties. The commission also reportedly said its digital election management platform experienced technical problems but was never hacked.

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