26 May 2014

Malawi's Chaotic Election Set for Recount

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

Final results for Malawi's election may take up to two months. The electoral commission has admitted flaws during the vote and ordered a recount in some areas.

"We envisage that the vote audit may take us not more than two months to conclude," Chimkwita Phiri from Malawi's electoral commission announced. The commission ordered a recount of the votes after admitting that there had been irregularities in the counting process.

"There are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre," read a statement by the chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Maxon Mbendera.

He told members of the press that his staff would nevertheless complete the current vote counting, but that the results would not be announced until the electoral commission comes to a final conclusion.

Malawi held its elections on Tuesday, May 20. The voting process itself was marred by logistical difficulties, as up to 4,000 polling stations did not receive their ballot papers on time. The initial 12 hour voting period had to be extended to the next day, as many Malawians were not able to vote on time.

President Joyce Banda has performed poorly according to preliminary results.

On Friday May 23, Malawi's incumbent President Joyce Banda insisted that the elections should be declared "null and void" due to serious irregularities.

This happened shortly after the electoral commission had announced preliminary results, which showed, the DPP and its candidate Peter Mutharika, were leading with 42 percent of the vote.

Banda tried to use her presidential power to halt the tallying and to order new elections within 90 days. She added that she would not stand as a presidential candidate, should fresh elections be held. Malawi's high court however over-ruled her decision, saying that the electoral commission was the only institution with the legal mandate to call in new elections.

Filling Mutharika's shoe?

Joyce Banda came into office in 2012, when her predecessor Bingu was Mutharika died of a heart attack. Her opponent main Peter Mutharika is the deceased president's brother.

Clive Gabay, a political analyst from London's Queen Mary University, told DW, that there was a lot more at stake for Joyce Banda than just losing the presidential race. "Given that Peter Mutharika looks like he could be the winner of the original elections, her strategy is probably to have another election and hope that he doesn't win."

Presidential candidate Peter Mutharika served as Malawi's foreign minister under his brother Bingu.

In recent years, explained Gabay, Banda has failed to live up to many of her promises. He believes that her failure to crackdown on officials involved in the "Cashgate" corruption scandal might revisit her, if Peter Mutharika wins. "It is possible that if he won the elections, it is possible that he might seek to bring her to court and see her sentenced to jail time."

Banda's party, as well as other opposition parties, like the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), welcomed the electoral commission's decision to recount the votes.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) however contested the commission's decision, saying that they feared that the stored ballot boxes were not secure and that the parties were not properly consulted.

The chaotic nature of the elections has infuriated many Malawians. In the cities of Blantyre Malawian's took to the streets and burnt down polling stations to demonstrate their anger.

Despite the confusion and isolated incidents of violence, the election observer mission from the South African Development Community (SADC) declared the polling process as "free, peaceful and credible". In a press release, the EU observer mission stated that the voting was conducted in a orderly manner despite organizational short-comings.

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InFocus

Malawi Poll Results to be Recounted After Alleged Voter Fraud

Voters in a queue at Kanjedza School in Blantyre.

The country's electoral commission will perform a recount of the results of the elections after President Joyce Banda called for an annulment due to alleged irregularities. Read more »