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MEC Chair bemoans transport bottlenecks ahead of May 21 vote

Written by  Felix Mponda

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Jane Ansah on Friday bemoaned transport bottlenecks ahead of the May 21 tripartite vote, saying from past experiences, she anticipates a shortfall of 700 station wagons and 346 trucks.

MEC  Chairperson Ansah: Determined to deliver a credible poll. MEC Chairperson Ansah: Determined to deliver a credible poll.
03
May

Ansah said the Commission requires 2,154 vehicles, three aircraft and six boats to “effectively and efficiently distribute materials and deploy staff in all 5,002 polling stations.”


She told a meeting of NECOF attended by top diplomats and Malawi officials, international observers and politicians in Lilongwe that MEC was working “tirelessly” with relevant government offices to “mobilize enough vehicles.”

 


MEC faced transport challenges in 2014 when it received only 1,300 vehicles, leaving a shortfall of 600.


Giving a progress report, Ansah said printing of ballot papers for all the three elections--presidential, parliamentary and municipal- by Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing of Dubai was completed, saying the “printing exercise went on smoothly and we are now working on packaging and dispatching them to Malawi.”

 


She thanked the DPP, MCP and UTM parties for sending monitors to inspect the printing process in Dubai.

 

The ballot papers will be delivered on May 13 and 14 through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe from where distribution will take place to respective councils and constituencies.


Ansah said with 6,859, 570 registered voters, for contingency and backup, there was a 3 percent markup, while printing and packaging of ballot paper books and pallets, centre figures have been rounded up to the next 100.


“So cumulatively, the Commission has printed 7,316,500 ballot papers for each of the three elections. The printing of ballot papers has also been done simultaneously with the results sheets. This is one sure way of ensuring that there are adequate forms for every monitor and observer at every polling stream to get a copy,” she said.


The MEC Chairperson highlighted the following critical aspects of the vote:


.Under the law, the Commission has up to eight (8) days to announce the results for the elections. The Commission is concerned because wrong information is being sent to the public by candidates. Everyone is choosing their own swearing day or the day they will assume presidency. This can cause confusion and panic should the Commission not announce election dates within the date proclaimed by candidates despite being within the eight (8) day provision.


The Commission expects candidates and political parties to explain clearly to their supporters and sympathizers that results will be announced within eight (8) days so that there is justified expectation.


.The Commission will always receive complaints which have to be addressed before announcing of results. The Commission will set up the main tally centre at the COMESA Hall in Blantyre. Political parties and candidates will be allowed to place monitors. There will be special accreditation for access to the main tally centre. 


The Commission wishes to emphasize that everyone who registered as a voter will be accorded an opportunity to vote. We know some lost their certificates during the floods, some due to theft and even selling or grabbing. All we expect from these people is to present them at the centre where they registered on the polling day. If they transferred, they should go to the centre where they transferred to. 

 

During the last NECOF on 15th February in Lilongwe, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) made a presentation on the plans they had in place for the campaign period. One of which included having pre-recorded three-minute messages from all presidential candidates and also special programmes for all the presidential candidates. The Commission wrote all the parties on 1st March, 2019 asking them to submit the messages. So far only two political parties: Umodzi Party and Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy (MMD) responded. The Commission received the messages and passed them on to MBC and they have started broadcasting them. The MEC will not force anyone to put messages on MBC, you have exercised your choice to refrain and we respect that.

 

.The Commission ran a dry test of the results management system to transmit results from the constituency tally centres to the Main Tally Centre in Blantyre on Thursday May 2, 2019. The purpose was to have a feel of what will happen and to identify any challenges that might be experienced on the day of transmitting the actual results. The system is fine and we are confident that everything will go on well on the actual day. We have some issues which we need to work on. This is what we wanted by having a dry test run.

 

The Commission will again provide a free SMS facility of *2019# to help registered voters check where they registered and which stream their name will be. We urge political parties to inform their parties about this facility so that it can be utilized fully. Civic and voter education providers are equally encouraged to spread this message. This SMS facility will be available on Airtel and TNM subscribers.


The Commission is concerned with the way the word “rigging” is carelessly and irresponsibly being used, especially among politicians. Rigging is a word that has become simpler and cheaper to use than any other word in the electoral dictionary. From the inside of the Commission we do not suspect anyone is doing or can do that. We do not believe that rigging is possible with the system and procedures we have in place. For someone to rig the elections, they need collusion of the whole Commission and the whole polling system, which is impossible. Commissioners come from various political parties and definitely that cannot be possible. You need collusion of all polling staff, monitors from all political parties and candidates, all observers, the security and the media. This is a mammoth task and we cannot imagine someone can do it. We have been in several forums where no one has brought evidence to support the allegation of rigging. We urge everyone to first evaluate if they have evidence, before making these rigging allegations. The Commission is assuring all Malawians that we are geared to have a credible election come May 21.

 

In a bid to ensure free, fair and transparent elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission has set up an elaborate system to handle complaints expeditiously. Any person submitting a complaint should provide the following information: a) Name, Address and Telephone number(s) of the Complainant. Place where the event occurred (if the event took place at a polling station, the number and the code need to be specified); c) Date(s) and the Time of the event; d) Name(s) address and Telephone Number(s) of other people involved; or who witnessed (who can give evidence) e) The accusation and the description of the event; f) Evidence of the allegation; MEC strongly encourages that all complaints lodged should be in writing and that those who are not able to write should seek assistance to submit a written complaint. At the polling station, the Presiding Officer can assist. If it is something beyond the presiding officer, the matter will be referred to the Multiparty Liaison Committee. MEC also wishes to advise that all complainants should indicate their full names in their complaints. However, if the person requests that his/her identity remains confidential, MEC will not reveal the identity without his or her consent. Complaints sent through email should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Ansah said the Commission “is wishing all those who are contesting in these elections the best of luck and may the best candidates win.


“The Commission is geared to deliver a credible, free, fair and peaceful election. It is our anticipation that all stakeholders will support this cause through their respective roles.”


The UNDP Resident Coordinator and UN Representative Maria Jose Torres outlined key achievements chalked in the electoral process, from the establishment of the “cleanest possible voter register thanks to the utilization of the national ID as the source of identification for all registrants” to the smooth voter roll inspection process.

 

Torres said: “We should all be proud of what has been achieved to show the world that Malawi is a modern and sophisticated democracy.”


She said Malawi was steadily becoming a repository of good practices that others can learn from and can always improve from.


But the UN local chief warned against complacency. “We are not at the finishing line yet. Work is still ongoing on issues of transporation to consolidate the logistics around polling day.”


She said efforts were being made to “ensure there is no shortfall on this aspect.”


She said work will be ongoing to “perfect the results transmission system” that was tested on Thursday to “ensure that this sensitive part of the process is as effective, reliable and secure as possible.”


While noting that there was less political violence than was reported in 2014 at the same time, Torres said the “biggest test lies ahead in the acceptance of the results by political party leaders.”


She said the UN was working closely with all stakeholders and “we want to acknowledge the efforts and commitments to make these elections credible and transparent.”


Capital Hill is footing the elections to the tune of K40 billion, the first  time the vote has been funded using local resources, President Arthur Peter Mutharika  is seeking re-election.

Other contenders in the presidential race are his enstranged vice president Saulos Chilima of UTM, Lazarus Chakwera of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party , Atupele Muluzi of UDF, a cabinet minister in Mutharika’s administration, John Chisi, lecturer at the College of Medicine and several independents.

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