Survey shows 57% back elections

Malawi is among three African countries with the least support for elections at 57 out of every 100, a new Afrobarometer survey has shown.

The survey, published on Thursday last week, was conducted from 2016 to 2018.

Besides Malawi, which lies third from the bottom of the 34-country list, the other countries with the least support are e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) with 54 percent and Lesotho at the bottom with 48 percent.

An elderly man votes in the May 21 Tripartite Elections

The survey also shows Malawi’s neighbouring countries having more support for elections, with 61 percent for Mozambique, 78 percent for Zimbabwe, 80 percent for Tanzania and 82 percent for Zambia.

Reacting to the survey findings, governance and political commentators said the results signal how problematic the country’s elections have been since the inception of democracy in 1993, which has in turn eroded voters’ confidence.

In a telephone interview yesterday, political analyst Nandini Patel attributed the low figures to lack of connectedness between elected and unelected officials as well as voters as pronounced by similar surveys.

She said: “In other words, people do not see a benefit [in the electoral process] and this has been coming out to say elected officials are not held accountable. So, it could also be dissatisfaction on the one hand.”

Looking at the period during which the survey was conducted, Patel also said another contributing factor could be the way the 2014 Tripartite Elections were held which left many question marks.

Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali, in a separate interview, attributed the low figures to the country’s failure to learn from previous problematic elections such as the 2014 Tripartite Elections.

“Most local elections have been characterised by similar problems bordering on credibility and fairness of the process.

“In fact, if a similar study was to be done after the 2019 Tripartite Elections, I would predict that the picture would be worse in as far as public perception of the quality of the election process is concerned and support for the same,” he said.

Munthali further said as a way forward, there is need to re-table the Electoral Reforms Bills in Parliament for deliberations as they partly address issues relating to such problematic elections.

The survey was conducted in 34 countries and had a 75 percent average. It also states that despite support for elections being higher in Africa in the recent past, in some 18 countries Afrobarometer tracked since 2005, including Malawi, average support has declined from 82 percent to 74 percent in the past 13 years.

According to the survey, support for elections is only particularly high in certain West African countries such as The Gambia (88 percent), Sierra Leone (87 percent), Cote d’Ivoire (84 percent) and Liberia (84 percent).

The survey further indicates that only 32 percent of Malawians are of the view that elections conducted in the country are of high quality (completely free and fair or fair with minor problems) whereas 57 percent believe they are of low quality (free and fair with major problems or not free and fair).

The survey further shows that the remaining 11 percent do not know or remain neutral.

The results have come in the aftermath of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections whose presidential results are being challenged in court by two petitioners, Saulos Chilima of UTM Party and Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who want the elections nullified due to alleged irregularities.

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