BLANTYRE— European Union election observers in Malawi are urging Malawians to remain calm as they wait for the Electoral Commission to release official results from the May 20 polls. Malawians are expressing concern over delays in the announcement.
Briefing journalists in Blantyre on Thursday, the EU Mission’s chief observer, Veronique De Keyser, said the mission is aware of considerable organizational shortcomings that marred the electoral process.
She cited incidents of unrest and lack of essential materials that she said resulted in delays in the opening of polling centers.
Weaknesses aside, De Keyser said the EU mission believes that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) acted impartially throughout the electoral election period.
“And despite that, thanks to the patience of the staff in the polling stations, and the action taken by MEC to recover from the incidents, it’s an achievement," she said.
Meanwhile, the MEC has extended voting in seven centers which failed to vote in the past two days because of further problems.
“After reprinting the ballot papers we realized that in some areas the voters' roll was burnt and we could not proceed with voting so we had to go back to reprint the voters’ roll," said Willie Kalonga, the chief elections officer for the MEC. "In some areas we failed to open because of the challenge we had with printer - it could not print voters’ roll in time as we could have thought."
Preliminary results from various polling stations, released by radio stations, are putting the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progress Party, Peter Mutharika, in the lead.
Speaking during a press conference in the capital Lilongwe, President Joyce Banda of the ruling People’s Party (PP) faulted the unofficial results.
President Banda also said she has information that one opposition party, which she declined to name, had hacked into the MEC electronic system to rig the election. She asked the Malawi Electoral Commission for a manual vote recount.
MEC officials have described the president's request as irrelevant, as the commission is already using manual vote counting.
“The counting system has not changed," said Maxon Mbendera, the MEC’s chairperson. "It is the same old system where we count at the polling center where the monitors are present and they sign for it… all the process I am talking about is manual counting. I therefore wonder how the ruling PP is asking for stoppage in order to recount the votes. Those are unofficial results therefore we will not going to accede to the request for recount at the moment.”
Mbendera has asked Malawians to wait for the official results before they start complaining about the election's outcome.