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Malawi Group Warns of Possible Electoral Dispute

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - An elderly woman casts her vote in Malawi's general election in Machinga district, north of the commercial capital, Blantyre.

FILE - An elderly woman casts her vote in Malawi's general election in Machinga district, north of the commercial capital, Blantyre.

The Malawi Civil Society Grand Coalition has warned that the electoral commission’s failure to address concerns expressed by political parties about the preparations leading up to the May 20 general election, saying they could undermine the entire tripartite vote.

The grand coalition, which comprises faith-based groups, civil society organizations, NGOs and Trade Union organizations, also expressed worry that the continued use of state resources by President Joyce Banda’s ruling People’s Party during the campaign period could potentially lead to disputes during the election process.

Voice Mhone, leader of the Civil Society Grand Coalition, says the electoral commission has yet to resolve problems associated with the voter list despite repeated promises to do so.

Malawi’s electoral commission has been compiling a voter list to be used for the presidential, legislative and local elections.

But, opposition parties have complained about what they say are anomalies between figures from the country’s statistical service and that of the electoral commission in the voters’ list compilation. Mhone says the electoral body has yet to rectify the discrepancy despite promises to do so.

“The second concern is to do with the voter verification exercise. Three [or] four weeks ago, they had embarked on this exercise, but it was a total flop and they had to withdraw,” said Mhone. “The other issue is trying to level the playing ground. Both state controlled media and private media they are up to now showing some bias in their reports, and therefore, the ground is not leveled enough.”

The ruling party is using state resources for its campaign, according to Mhone. He says calls for transparency on how political parties are financed have so far failed to yield positive results.

“If you look at the way resources have been used we still have the state media following [the president] wherever she is covering and re-broadcasting the so-called developmental rallies, while clearly they seem to be political rallies,” said Mhone.

Supporters of the ruling party however contend that President Joyce Banda remains the country’s leader and deserves to be accorded the perks that come with the office including security protection as well as media coverage.

Meanwhile, the electoral commission says it has implemented measures to address concerns of political parties in the run up to the elections, says Sangwani Mwafulirwa, spokesperson of the electoral commission.

But, Mhone disagreed.

“They have been assuring to say we are addressing these concerns and so far, they seem to have given more of lip service than probably delivering on the expectation,” said Mhone.
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