Malawi 2014 Elections: Neither Free Nor Credible

May 22, 2015

Blantyre, Malawi – A new civil society report on Malawi’s 2014 tripartite elections is calling for reforms in the country’s electoral processes and systems, including enhancing the independence and technical capacity of the Malawi Election Commission (MEC).  

The report titled: “Election Situation Room: Analysis of the 2014 Tripartite Elections in Malawi,” is a summary of findings of the Malawi Election Information Centre (MEIC) an initiative of a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) with a common interest in collaborating on activities related to the 2014 Malawi tripartite elections, led by the Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN).

It was a multi-stakeholder initiative devised as a platform for CSOs to collaborate on election observation and monitoring, and to provide a rapid response and proactive advocacy strategy related to the elections. The project, comprised of an Election Situation Room (ESR) and citizen journalism initiative, was designed to provide reliable, timely, evidence-based and freely-accessible information to all those interested in the elections. The Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), Humanistic Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos Foundation) and the Africa Regional Office (AfRO) provided support to the project.

The report reveals that the elections were neither fair nor credible due to abuse of state resources by the incumbent, flaws in the voter’s roll, and poor management of the voting process and announcement of results. It also points to the inadequacy of voting materials on election day and delayed opening and closing of polling centres. However, the report states that the elections were free because those qualified to vote were accorded the opportunity to exercise their right with considerable efforts put in place to remove obstacles.

The report says that most of the challenges experienced in the 2014 elections had been experienced in previous elections, but there was a lack of political will to put corrective measures in place.

The 2014 elections marked the first time Malawi held tripartite elections since the transition to multi-party politics in 1993. The country voted for the president, parliamentarians and local councilors at the same time. For parliament, seventeen political parties fielded candidates for the 193-seat national assembly. The top four political parties, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the People’s Party (PP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF), were expected to win most seats.

According to the report, the power of incumbency and its associated advantages severely hindered the players’ ability to seize the opportunities.

“Use of state resources, acts of patronage, gift giving, rewards to chiefs and other civic leaders created an environment in which the incumbents, both at the presidential and parliamentary levels, were duly advantaged over those in the opposition and newcomers in the race,” reads part of the report.

In addition, the report finds that poor funding for the elections compounded the challenges faced during the 2014 electoral process.