The votes have been counted on a long-awaited re-election of the Malawi presidential election this week, as the opposition Tonse alliance claimed victory over incumbent Peter Mutharika on Thursday afternoon, although the Malawian election commission has not yet announced the official result.
“With all the votes … tuned, it is now clear that the Malays are resounding [the opposition] the alliance’s mandate to govern this country for the next five years, “according to a statement from the Tonse Alliance.
Alliance unites chief opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, head of the Malawian Congress Party, and Saulos Chilima from United Transformation Movement the party (UTM), which came in third place in the 2019 elections, and strengthens an opposition bloc.
Malawians went to the polls again after the Constitutional Court invalidated the May 2019 election because of “widespread, systematic and serious” irregularities. That judgment was later challenged and upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.
There were a number of significant changes between the two elections, according to political analyst Boni Dulani of the University of Malawi.
“In general, the quality and the organization were much better than last year’s invalid choices. the new leadership in the electoral commission emphasized the fact that all electoral personnel who crushed should be held personally responsible, says Dulani.
“A lot of the voting staff took this to heart – they were much more cautious when doing things than before,” adds Dulani, who was also an observer at the election.
“That’s why we’ve seen almost no use of the tippex correction fluid, which characterized last year’s election,” he says.
Chifundo Kachale, the new judge for the election committee’s new Malawi Election Commission, had three and a half weeks to organize an election, and although there were some errors that were logistical, including missing materials, it was more transparent, says Dulani, why people explain winners – they have already done the enumeration based on the number published at district level.
“There is no comparison with last year’s” tippex election, “says Pemphero Wamwale Mphande, who ran as a member of parliament in his constituency last year and lost.
“For me as a candidate, we had a similar thing in my constituency – one of my observers told me that when counting the results, more people had votes than they had registered in the center,” he tells RFI, describing how 20 more votes were made than the number of people selected.
At the 2019 general election, the MP position for his constituency was sitting.
“The funny thing now is that it has gone to the opposition leaders – I think it is interesting because I do not think that much has changed between then and now,” he says.
Writing on the wall
In the month before the election, the Institute for Public Opinion and Research (IPOR), led by the social scientist Dulani, asked Malaysians around the country and asked voters about the upcoming election. Their poll before the election showed that the opposition in the Chakwera-Chilima Tonse Alliance would win by 58 percent overall to trouble Peter Mutharika’s 38 percent.
According to Malawian media on Wednesday, the Tonse alliance had 55 percent leadership with three-quarters of the votes counted, while Mutharika had 40 percent.
“The final decision was what the Malawians really decided and the result was there for everyone to see,” says Dulani.
Independent judiciary and military
At the end of the court case to rescind the election, it was the independent judiciary and the military that helped create room for free and fair free elections, says Jimmy Kainja, a graduate of Malawi University.
“The independence of these institutions allowed people to walk the streets,” he tells RFI.
“The Coalition for Human Rights Defenders asked people to come on the streets, people went out to show that they knew the military would not shoot at them,” he says.
“The courts decided that people have freedom of association … it was a people’s awakening, that they could walk on the street and protest,” he adds.
Activist Mphande also believes that military impartiality contributed to the entire electoral process.
“Without them we would not be where we are today; In Africa, it is very difficult to win a legal case, because the current government has the military on its side, says Mphande.
Review of international observers
The vote was conducted without outside funding and no international observers, who were partially absent due to travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
Conducting the election independently is something the Malawians can be proud of, he says, which should be a starting point for reviewing the effectiveness of international observers.
“We have agreed with international observers in the past … they seem concerned about political correctness that they are making a generic statement that the election was free and fair. They can’t be honest, and that’s the problem, says Mphande.
Although in May 2019, a number of past international observers had declared the election freely and fairly – before the Constitutional Court annulled it.
“In the last election, there were tippexed results sheets everywhere, everyone could see that the numbers changed. If these people were aware, they might have discovered this thing, he says.
Although Mphande says that international observers have a role, their mandate should be reviewed. He also believes that inviting observers are not “one-size-fits all” on the African continent, citing Zimbabwe as an example.
“Zimbabwe has a repressive regime with the ruling ZANU-PF party and I don’t think it would be the same to have a choice there without international observers,” he says.
While the Malaysians are awaiting the final official statement from the nomination committee, analysts are already looking forward to the challenges that the new Chikwera-Chilima administration will face.
“It’s obviously a crucial moment for Malawi, and hopefully the new administration will deal with the many new challenges this country is really facing, not least Covid-19,” said Dulani, adding that the outgoing government had lost focus on the pandemic on due to the ongoing political intrigue.
“We hope that we can really take this issue seriously before it really goes out of hand,” he adds.
The Malawians are hoping for a new, transparent administration, but many are proud to achieve this re-election.
“We have done it on our own, most countries in Africa think they can do it on their own, and it will be something to look at,” says Mphande.