Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah on Wednedsday rebuffed calls from main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to resign.
MCP wants Ansah to step down for what it calls failure by the commission to act on reports of violence and intimidation during the campaign period Tuesday’s by-elections in Malindi Ward in Mangochi North East Constituency and Milonde Ward in Mulanje South East Constituency.
Reacting to a statement issued on Wednesday and signed by MCP publicity secretary Ezekiel Chingoma, Ansah said she does not see any reason why she should resign as she did her best and everything was conducted according to provisions in the electoral laws.
She advised MCP to stop believing rumours instead of sticking to facts.
Said Ansah: “Allegations that MEC has done nothing or was just sitting ‘ phwii ’ are not correct. I and all the commissioners have been going around to see things for ourselves and I would like to assure you that no violence has been recorded in any of our polling centres.”
In the statement, MCP alleges that some of its monitors were chased from polling stations, a thing Ansah disputed, saying no violence was reported at a distance of 300 km a polling centre to require cancellation of results as stipulated by electoral laws.
Ansah, while acknowledging receipt of complaints during the campaign period, including reports of creations of no-go-zone areas by some traditional leaders in Milonde Ward and intimidation and actual violence, condemned such conduct as totally inconsistent with democratic values and principles as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.
“The Commission has been informed that there were individuals or groups of people who came from Lilongwe and Blantyre to cause or perpetrate violence. Our constitutional order envisages a political system which allows everyone to exercise a choice of which party to belong to and support. It is, therefore, a sign of retrogression that there are still some individuals, groups of people, and parties that do not tolerate and accept other people’s political choices,” she said.
Ansah further said accordance with sections 38 and 40 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, every person has the right to assemble and demonstrate with others within the borders of Malawi and that every person has the right to form, join and participate in the activities of, and recruit members for, a political party.
“In addition to this right, every person has the right to campaign for a political party or for a cause. It is also the right of every person to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government of Malawi and to freely make political choices,” she said.
Ansah assured all affected sides that police are handling all reports with the seriousness the issues deserve.
Meanwhile, political analysts have since backed Ansah, saying the MEC chairperson has little to do with such issues as her office mainly looks at policies and gives advice on elections.
Political commentator Rafiq Hajat said the chief elections officer is the only person mandated to call off or postpone elections when there are justifiable reasons to do so.
However, he said when that happens, the cost is huge.
Hajat said: “This issue of violence in the run-up to elections illustrates that the understanding that people have on democracy is shallow. They think politics is the same as a football match and they react with a lot of temperaments.”
University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political scientist George Phiri said MCP is not justified to call for the MEC chairperson’s resignation, describing the decision as premature.
“There are reports of violence towards every election and if we are to be changing MEC chairpersons each time there are such reports, how many chairpersons are we going to change. Resignation is not a simple issue as it means wastage of both time and money. We need to find a better means of resolving this,” he said.
While reminding MCP of the violence that took place during last year’s by-elections in Nsanje and that MEC went on to announce results which an MCP candidate won, Phiri said it is high time parties reworked their strategies to conform to democratic principles.
Announcing the results Tuesday by-election results, Ansah said Malindi Ward had four candidates. With 15 647 registered voters, 5 287 voters turned up for polling, representing a 33.79 percent voter turnout.
She said there were 84 null and void votes, representing 1.59 percent. The results of the voting were as follows: Hassan Chikuta (People’s Party-PP 878 votes), George Mayamiko Chiwaula, (Independent) 530 votes, Ambrose Benford Hamisi (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) 1 060 votes, Kassim Abiewa Limamu (United Democratic Front-UDF) 2 735votes.
On the other hand, Milonde Ward had five candidates with 19 025 registered voters, 3 597 voters turned up for polling, representing 19.14 percent voter turnout.
There were 44 null and void votes, representing 1.21 percent. Mavuto Lackson Michael (Independent) got 121 votes, Donata Nyanga (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) earned 531 votes, Leo Roy Pangani (Independent) got 140 votes, Mike Skinner (Democratic Progressive Part-DPP polled 2 719 votes and Cidreck Dickies Somanje (Independent) got 80 votes.
DPP regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha expressed satisfaction with the results saying it signifies that its alliance with UDF is yielding results.