‘Race too close to call’

 

For the second time since Thursday, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) yesterday failed to give an update with figures on the presidential race, only hinting that the contest was ‘too close to call’.

MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said she would not give an update on the votes that the presidential candidates have amassed because the commission first wants to investigate complaints that have been lodged with it.

In his preamble—before inviting Ansah to address the media—chief elections officer (CEO) Sam Alfandika said it was important that every vote is counted thinly, revealing that the votes of two top contenders—Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—were very close.

Ansah and MEC commissioner Jean Mathanga during the press conference

“We want each and every vote to be counted because the elections are “too close to call,” said Alfandika who asked Malawians for more time to investigate complaints lodged to the commission.

MEC, which was expected to give an update on the progress of the election results management then disclosed that the update would not include the announcing how the presidential candidates were fairing because the complaints were interlinked with the results.

In her address, Ansah said the commission was continuing to review and address the complaints it had received—147 of them as of yesterday—on Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.

“Our legal team is expeditiously reviewing all the complaints we have received and giving feedback to the complainants,” she said.

Ansah cited four centres— Nsanje Central, Lilongwe Chimutu, Mangochi West and Mulanje South—as some of the centres which had issues that necessitated delaying announcement of all the results.

She said most of the complaints involved alteration of the results sheets, including erasing of them with tippex.

“The issue of tippex has affected most of the centres from Chitipa to Nsanje, Nkhotakota to Mchinji and involves all political parties,” she said.

Citing Section 97 of the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, which mandates the Commission to resolve any matter brought before it as a complaint, Ansah said they will ensure every vote counted at the polling station is also counted in the national tally.

“We assure you that abiding by the electoral law, the commission is utilising every moment—day and night—to ensure that we provide a credible outcome of the polling process,” she said.

Ansah said the commission has shared the polling station results received from 98 percent of the centres in the country, with all political parties.

She urged Malawians to give the commission time to manage the results that would be credible and accepted by all parties, saying the next briefing will be today.

National Initiative Civic Education (Nice) Trust Ollen Mwalubunju earlier in the day said the credibility of MEC would be judged on how they will handle the complaints.

Mwalubunju said: “We strongly appeal to MEC to swiftly deal with allegations of tampering with results and they should quarantine such results with the aim of re-examining them.

“The elections were held in a peaceful manner, but on whether they have been concluded in a free and fair manner, that will be known later. We appeal to political parties to calm down and give space to MEC to do their job,” he said.

Meanwhile, UTM has called on its supporters to exercise patience as the country awaits results of the elections.

“We had a meeting with MEC officials where it was agreed that results will be announced after all the results from the polling centres have been received and all queries and complaints have been resolved.

“For them to resolve these complaints it will take some time possibly up to the end of tomorrow,” reads the statement signed by Paul Chibingu, UTM director of elections.

In the last update on Thursday morning, Ansah announced that the DPP presidential candidate Mutharika was leading with 1 436 877 votes representing 40.49 percent of the votes counted while Chakwera came second with 1 257 853 votes representing 35.44 percent, UTM president Saulos Chilima amassed 651 124 votes, representing 18.35 percent and Atupele Muluzi of the United Democratic Front (UDF) got 161 499 votes, representing 4.55 percent. The results came from 75 percent of the polling centres.

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