CHRR, CEDEP RENEWED CALL FOR PHYSICAL VOTER AUDIT OF 2014 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS
We at Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) observe with sadness the events that characterized yesterday following the Malawi Electoral Commission’s decision to effect a physical voting audit of not only the Presidential election but also of the Parliamentarian and Local government. It is reported that High Court Judge Healey Potani challenged MEC’s decision by ruling that MEC has no powers to call for a recount of the votes before initial counting has ended. According to the ruling, only the court has powers to call for a recount of the votes after being satisfied with the grounds of complaints from individuals or parties. The ruling further asks MEC to go ahead and announce the results and, if after the announcement there are any queries, parties should lodge their complaints with the court. This followed another High Court ruling on the same day by Judge Muhara.
While respecting the independence of the Judiciary, we at CHRR and CEDEP feel that the Judiciary’s interference in the verdict of Malawi Electoral Commission on this crucial and sensitive matter has not addressed the problem at hand as identified by the electoral body, but has rather managed to only expose the inconsistencies of our judiciary system and its inability to distinguish between what is of private interest from what is of national interest. In fact, one questions the consistency of the Judiciary's verdicts as on one occasion it preaches of the independence of the electoral body, only to tread on that autonomy two days later. We at CHRR and CEDEP feel this is not only confusing but suicidal towards the promotion and protection of good governance, rule of law and human rights especially at a critical period of our political history. Remember that the law is there to serve, not to be served.
From the onset, we at CHRR and CEDEP applaud the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for coming out of its shell to publicly declare that there were several pressing irregularities with the voting process as evident in several observed centres prompting it to call for a physical voting audit. By calling for a physical voting audit, Malawi Electoral Commission was clearly sending the message that the prevailing observed irregularities, if not mended with certain measures like a physical voting audit, would negatively affect the quality or credibility of the outcome of the election. In fact, the reported or observed irregularities would thus provide a larger picture of similar irregularities in other centres or parts despite not being reported or observed by the Commission. With the national interest at heart and in fulfillment of its legal mandate of ensuring a free, fair and credible election, the Malawi Electoral Commission was thus justified to call for a physical voting audit countrywide. In fact, such a move was very welcome considering the tight competition of the Presidential race where every vote counts and any observable discrepancies could actually affect or point to the larger picture of the same occurrence. Thus, with this understanding, we find that the stance of the High Court - that such an exercise should be done after the announcement of the results - as not only impractical but also against the principles of good governance, respect and protection of human rights, and the basic principles of rules of natural justice. By urging the Commission to abort this important exercise the High Court is legitimizing the gross irregularities which would lead to irregularities in and illegitimacy of the results. Such results can never be accepted as credible not only by MEC but also by all key stakeholders excluding those who have deliberately chosen to depart from the path of reason in order to satisfy their personal egos.
We at CHRR and CEDEP are further surprised by the stance taken by the opponents of physical voting audit, a stance that raises more questions than answers. We at CHRR and CEDEP are surprised that, of all the parties, why should it be the Democratic Progressive Party and New Labour Party alone rejecting a simple good governance principle of audit which would not only manage to come to the bottom of the issue at hand but also validate their legitimacy to govern in a scenario where they emerge victorious in the polls. Why is DPP and NLP afraid of the physical voting audit? What are they hiding from us? Why is the Democratic Progressive Party pretending to have high regards for matters of constitutionalism and matters relating to the respect for the rule of law, when they are trampling on the very democratic path which would validate its legitimate ascendancy to power? When did the Democratic Progressive Party begin to appreciate its high regards for matters of constitutionalism when its perennial actions have portrayed a different picture? If MEC’s recent testimony is anything to go by, is it not because the DPP feel that they are the “legitimate” winners following some unofficial but questionable results, and can thus selfishly use the law to satisfy their lust for power at the expense of a vital good governance step of physical voting audit? We at CHRR and CEDEP can only smell hypocrisy at the highest degree in all these clandestine moves masquerading as protecting and defending the constitution.
We at CHRR and CEDEP also advise our local and international observers to refrain from dragging Malawians into accepting that the tripartite elections have been free, credible and fair as has been observed when the reality on the ground clearly shows a different picture. How do you call an election with such massive irregularities free, fair and credible when even the electoral body acknowledges such disparities prompting it to call for a fresh physical voting audit? Let our quest for peace, unity and quick outcome of the elections not compromise the very tenets of democracy which we all preach. In other words, we should not just be desperate to know the outcome of these elections but also to know the quality of such outcome.
We at CHRR and CEDEP would like to remind all Malawians that matters of legitimacy are fundamental pillars of good governance and therefore must not be compromised in any way just because we want to appease certain individuals or authorities or to avoid conflicts. Legitimacy means being lawful and accepted through public processes such as a credible, free and fair election where the will of the people reign supreme. While Malawians are waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the election, they also need to know that it’s not just about the outcome of the elections but rather whether the will of the people has reigned supremethrough credible electoral processes. As a country, we should be ready to protect and promote our democracy by voicing our concerns and upholding all democratic processes. Let physical voting audits, as per MEC’s determination, take its course towards a legitimate government. We would also like to appeal to the courts to desist from circumventing the electoral process into a legal process through issuing of inconsistent orders.
As legitimate Malawians we will remain calm but we will surely not accept any outcome short of fairness, justice and credibility. As Malawians we are very patriotic and peaceful; we love our country and we are not ready to allow anyone or any institution to put us in disrepute.
May our almighty GOD bless and shower our beloved nation with the blessings of peace, unity and calmness! Long live our Democracy!
About CHRR and CEDEP
The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) remains one of the leading human rights non-governmental in Malawi. It was founded in February 1995 as a non-profit organization registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. Since its inception CHRR has championed its work at national level, SADC level through the SADC Human Rights Defenders Network at which it sits in the board, continental level through the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights using its observer status, and at UN level through different UN mechanisms such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) is a registered human rights organization under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. The organization was established in November 2005 in order to address the needs and challenges of minority groups in Malawi in the context of human rights, health and social development. CEDEP works at UN level through different UN mechanisms such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Timothy Mtambo Gift Trapence
Executive Director Executive Director
Released in Lilongwe/Malawi on Monday 26th May 2014