Miroslav Poche, the Chief Observer of the EU EOM, said “many polling stations have lengthy queues, indicating that Malawians are turning out in large numbers to vote. We hope the day goes calmly, enabling all who want to cast their votes to do so.”
Poche, who termed the observers as "eyes and ears of the mission during polling, counting and tallying results," said they will not offer any assessment on the conduct of voting until our preliminary statement on May 23," so that we can reflect on the entire day and also counting and tallying.”
The mission is observing the sixth multi-party poll since 1994 in rural and urban areas. Poche himself observed the opening of a polling centre in downtown Blantyre, one of the largest with 10,000 voters, who formed long queues for hours on end.
Poche said he will receive regular updates from EU observers throughout election day on the conduct of voting and counting, as well as follow-up reports on the tallying and results processes over subsequent days.”
The observers have been in Malawi since April and will remain until June 19. “The mission will continue to follow the announcement of the final results and other post-election developments,” Poche said.
The European Union, with a mandate to conduct a comprehensive, impartial and long term-assessment of the electoral process, was invited to deploy an election observation mission by the Malawi Electoral Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
This is the fourth time the EU has deployed an election observation mission to Malawi.
“Our presence for the 2019 polls demonstrates the European Union’s continuing commitment to the conduct of peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible elections in Malawi,” Poche told journalists recently.
Poche said Malawi’s sixth multiparty poll was “an opportunity to conduct polls which enjoy the confidence of the people, building on what has been done previously and learning also from past challenges.”
The EU observer mission conducts a comprehensive analysis of the whole electoral process. This includes assessing the legal framework, the performance of the election administration, voter registration, campaign activities, participation of women, media coverage, voting, counting and transmission of results, and any election disputes after the polls.
Other observer missions are from the Commonwealth, African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Incumbent President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika is seeking re-election to commence his second term as Head of State. His challengers to State House include his vice president Dr. Saulos Chilima, who formed his own party last year, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Atupele Muluzi, son of former president Bakili Muluzi and leader of the UDF.
About 7 million Malawians are expected to vote by the close of polling at 6 pm across the country.