Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) faces multiple challenges of transportation of electoral materials, collection and transmission of results during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections which are seven days away.
One MEC commissioner confided in The Nation that although things seem to be under control, there are two challenges facing the commission, namely, transportation and transmission. The commissioner said the electoral body has since taken a ‘wait and see’ stand.
Said the commissioner: “The truck/vehicle issues on transportation still remain a wait and see with all the promises too. Results transmission with broadband issues, we don’t expect a miracle turnaround time from the service providers.”
The commissioner also pointed out that there are general fears of voter apathy which could squarely be blamed on political parties’ irresponsible messages during the campaign, saying: “Irresponsible messages during campaigns will result in voter apathy and threaten to disrupt peace.”
The commissioner’s sentiments were echoed by European Union (EU)Election Observation Mission deputy chief observer Mark Stevens in an exclusive interview yesterday.
He said while the EU observer mission avoids issuing statements before election day, at the moment the sticky issues have been noted and that the mission was following closely on transportation of electoral materials and the results transmission system.
Said Stevens: “Major problem is transportation and collection of results. We have noted that MEC will be hiring vehicles. However, this remains an issue we are following closely.
“We are also following closely the result transmission system. We had observers at several tally centres when testing was taking place and we are compiling the report.”
But he said the EU team was keeping an open mind and hopes that the vehicles will be sufficient and that the results transmission system will be managed well.
Stevens, however, noted that few recommendations the EU Observer Mission made in 2014, especially the legal framework, have not been addressed ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
“This is a missed opportunity. Some of the electoral reforms have not been addressed, including the misuse of State resources and campaign financing. Handouts are still part if the campaign,” he said.
Stevens observed that government’s failure to implement recommendations that were made in 2014 was a missed opportunity.
The EU recommended the electoral reforms to check misuse of State resources and campaign financing.
Most of the reforms that were implemented were to do with the operations of the elections which were mostly implemented by MEC. However, little was done on the legal framework.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) chairperson Steven Duwa said his organisation appreciates the transportation challenges MEC was likely to face in administering the forthcoming elections.
However, he said currently Mesn could not be quick to judge MEC on the transmission of the results, saying the test the electoral body recently conducted was necessary to iron out all the bottlenecks.
On voter apathy fears, Duwa observed that allegations of vote rigging might lead to voter apathy as some voters may be discouraged to turn up on voting day, believing the polls have already been rigged and that their vote would not change anything.
MEC chief elections officer Sam Alfandika said the commission will organise a press briefing [today] where matters relating to the preparations of the elections will be discussed.
Recently, MEC advertised bids for provision of motor vehicles to ferry electoral materials, including ballot papers that arrived in the country yesterday.