‘Handle electoral issues with care’

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has recently been rocked in scandals that have raised questions on whether the electoral body is credible to deliver free, fair and credible elections in May this year. Some of the scandals include theft of MEC’s biometric voter registration kit which was found on a coal train in Mozambique in September last year and the recent voter registration certificates which were found dumped in Mangochi last week. Our reporter AYAMI MKWANDA engaged National Elections Systems Trust (Nest) executive director Unandi Banda on the fears that the May 21 Tripartite Elections are likely to be rigged, people’s worries over MEC’s credibility and other electoral issues. Excerpts:

Q

: Fears of rigging in the May 21 Tripartite Elections refuse to die. As one of the electoral stakeholders, where do you think these fears are coming from?

A

:These fears are coming from the way the country’s election management body, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), is handling matters of the electoral process in terms of their responses to the emerging issues.

Q

: How dangerous are the speculations if not well addressed?

A

:The speculations are very dangerous if not well addressed. These speculations require a proper soul-searching by all

stakeholders in the electoral process.

Q

: Do you think such fears are justified with what is happening on the ground?

A

:Yes, they are very much justified because right now the electoral management body [MEC] was supposed to call for a meeting of all stakeholders to reflect on these issues and find solutions before it is too late.

Q

: MEC has constantly found itself in tricky situations; losing a voter registration machine, vote certificates being found in Mangochi, a vehicle found in Karonga and shooting of voter registration numbers. Can these scenarios increase people’s fears of a rigging scheme?

A

: These are the issues that MEC alone, as it is trying to justify each of the emerging issues, cannot find a convincing solution or answer to because stakeholders are not involved in finding the final solution.

Q

:With what is happening at MEC, are they exuding any confidence?

A

: MEC is not exuding any confidence from the way they are handling these issues. They need to change their approach when dealing with such sensitive issues. The issues are not small, they are many emerging matters that require serious soul-searching by all stakeholders.

Q

: Parties have also constantly talked about rigging. For instance, UTM Party torchbearer Saulos Chilima last year at Masintha warned that rigging would not be possible and main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) raised fears on the issue. Do you think parties themselves are to blame for reinforcing the rigging fears?

A

: On this one yes, parties are also to blame. When a stakeholders meeting takes place, parties do not talk tough on finding solutions to the rigging saga. They do not provide possible solutions to help MEC see the way forward.

Q

:Some people have called on the MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah to resign. What is your view?

A

: Calling on the MEC chair to resign is not a solution now. The solution is to tell MEC in the face, the need for the electoral management body to change its mindset in handling sensitive issues like these because tomorrow they will accumulate to a bigger problem than they are thinking.

Q

: What is your take on MEC’s decision to put K500 000 as nomination fees for MPs?

A

: They are not wrong in terms of law and the kwacha value as it has gone down over the years. On the other hand, they are reducing numbers of aspiring candidates because if it was at K50 000 every Jim and Jack could have tried his luck.

Q

: Any advice for MEC commissioners and staff?

A

:: Please be interactive, do not work as if you are the only people blessed with wisdom to find solutions to the problems you are facing. Commissions have been there before you were appointed, so please seek advice from all stakeholders.

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