Reflecting on the 20 May 2014, Tripartite election results
The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) is greatly disturbed by the ruling of High Court Judge, Kenyatta Nyirenda, to give the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) the go-ahead to announce the irregularities and discrepancies ridden in the May 20 election results, and the subsequent announcement of the results by the MEC. As CHRR, we wonder if such a ruling was made to simply satisfy the law or to advance the credibility of the results. Otherwise, given the opportunity to choose between satisfying the electoral law by simply announcing the results and delivering credible results in a democratic dispensation like Malawi’s, we would not hesitate to opt for the latter.
We at CHRR will not tire to remind Malawians, including the courts, that the law is there to serve and not to be served. By asking the MEC to conduct a physical vote audit following an outcry of irregularities - to which even the MEC chair admitted himself - did not mean we were turning a blind eye to the electoral law that says poll results must be announced within eight days after voting. No! We read the law and we need to understand it. The law does not, in any way, give the MEC the mandate to announce results that fall short of credibility within the eight days. In this instance it is sad to observe that we have worshiped the law to the letter at the expense of the common good and basic democratic principles. We are saddened by the fact that it is the judicial system that has succeeded in trampling upon the democratic rights of Malawians by issuing inconsistent rulings on the matter regarding the autonomy of the MEC.
We have watched with deep lamentation an electoral process being circumvented into a judicial process. Surely an unfortunate and undemocratic precedence has been set where a president can emerge from a questionable electoral process and a simple uncontested court ruling. Despite the mess in the poll results in which the MEC has found itself, it was only prudent for the MEC to work towards satisfying the will of the people by carrying out a vote audit before announcing the results. That is the only step that could enhance credibility of the electoral results. As if to buttress our stand, it has come to our knowledge that seven MEC commissioners, on 25th May 2014, signed a communiqué, suggesting a vote recount as the only way out of the chaotic electoral results. Within its mandate and jurisdiction, the MEC found it wise to settle the dilemma by opting for a vote recount. Therefore, it goes without saying that the only ethical step stakeholders, including the court, could have taken was to wait for the MEC to do its work without undue influence or external pressure.
Moreover, in light of the seven commissioners’ description of the MEC results as "discrepancy-ridden," we find it odd for the MEC chair to declare the polls fair. Fair? We at CHRR regret that the MEC chair, Justice Maxon Mbendera, dragged the body’s name in the mire with such mocking statements. All and sundry can tell the May 2014 elections were far from fair and as such, any statements near pampering the exercise ought to be treated with utmost disdain. The MEC chair should have been the last person to utter words that would undermine the integrity of a constitutional body like the MEC.
In light of the foregoing, we at CHRR, as a governance, rule of law and human rights institution, would like to declare the elections not credible and leave it to Malawians to judge for themselves whether we have a legitimate government.
Looking forward, CHRR would like to make the following recommendations:
1. Let us preserve the independence and integrity of the MEC and resist the culture of undue judicial intrusion into the operations of the MEC.
2. We unreservedly call for the amendment of the eight-day electoral law provision because we have observed that it has great potential of thwarting the general will of the electorate in a free and democratic society like ours.
3. The Malawi Electoral Commission should continue working towards resolving all of the identified irregularities and complaints and bring to book all the associated culprits.
4. We at CHRR also call for the introduction of 50+1 percent electoral system in the subsequent elections as the only way of attaining real democratic governance in the country. Otherwise, the current scenario where only a simple majority is applied usher into power leaders who lack majority support and endorsement which are crucial tenets of democracy.
CHRR would like to condemn in strongest terms all electoral-related violence and call upon the national security apparatus to strengthen the security system and protect the citizenry. We call upon Malawians to keep the county a land of peace.
May God bless mother Malawi!!