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Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2020

Presidential re-run: Malawi comes of age

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CIVIL society groups in Malawi have said the victory of democracy in the country was not merely achieved on the night of elections, rather by the ability of both the opposing stakeholders to want a change and fight to get the best for the people of Malawi at all costs.

Civil Society leaders said this in an election discussion organised by Election Resource Centre Africa on Thursday.

The civic leaders said upholding the Constitution, independence of State institutions, transparency and respect of the will of the people were the major factors that facilitated a free and fair election in Malawi.

Billy Mayaya, Regional Co-ordinator of Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition said problems experienced in the 2019 elections made civil society to resolve that an election is a process in which there is equal and equitable electoral processes until after the elections.

He added that this view had given every institution and individual the zeal to defend their integrity and do away with the electoral conflicts that had tainted this southern African country since a one party State was abolished in 1994.

“There was the willingness, determination and commitment actually of the Malawi Electoral Commission to be transparent throughout the whole process, including also the vigilance of the citizens to ensure the vote was secure during the counting period. The security organs also took a professional approach to the whole process,” Mayaya said.

He said the mobilisation of protesters against the electoral flows and legal lawsuits by the groups played an important role in making sure that State institutions upheld the demands of a free and fair election.

Mayaya said the process was also made possible by the Malawi army which felt that their duty in the country was to promote peace and uphold human rights.

“The army and its commander played a crucial role in choosing the side of the people and this was due to the professionalism of the commander (Vincent) Nundwe who has a background in Peace and Development, something which I think contributed to the support we got from the army,” Mayaya said.

Boniface Chibwana, National Co-ordinator for Justice and Peace and also chairperson for the Malawi Election Situation Room said the army’s role was made possible because of the leadership qualities of its commander.

He further said the process was also made possible by civic groups who demanded a robust accountability and a transparent communication system by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

A consortium of civic groups joined to work together and these made sure there was a united and vibrant local observer mission which worked independently to bring credible election for the people of Malawi.

Chibwana said the civic groups working together managed to mobilise more than 6 000 volunteers who worked tirelessly and without getting paid for their services, something that was the first of its kind in Malawi.

He added that civic groups in Malawi used technology to make sure there was transparency of information being sent to the Malawi Situation Room.

Chibwana said their main goal was to maintain a steady flow of information and to train the volunteers they had recruited, and this was the most important part as they were the transmitters of raw data and a simple mistake would have spoiled the rest of the election process.

Chibwana further said a strong opposition and united opposition was important in the delivering of the most free and fair elections in the country as the people began to speak with one voice.

The major obstacle that could have hindered the elections though was the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical Doctor Azariah Mosiwa said the country took a risk in getting people to vote in the midst of a pandemic because election processes, by their very nature do not promote social distancing and this was the main reason why there had been a huge increase of the infected people in the country.

He, however, said the risk was important in the country’s democracy as the State institution ought to respect the laws, courts and the Constitution.

“The situation was tense, leading to the increase of the infected people but we could not go against the court ruling which had declared that there should be a re-election in 150 days and this does not mean an election is more important than the lives of the people but at the end of the day, people’s voices ought to be heard,” Mosiwa said.

The celebration of Malawi’s democratic and transparent election came after the country’s Constitutional Court nullified the presidential election that was held in May 2019 and ordered an rerun within 150 days.

The court also ordered for reforms by the country’s Parliament which were resisted by the government of Peter Mutharika but was later pushed to accept it as pressure amounted from the protesters, Parliament and civic groups.

The post Presidential re-run: Malawi comes of age appeared first on Zimbabwe Morning Post.

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Presidential re-run: Malawi comes of age