On May 20th 2014 the Small landlocked Nation of Malawi went to the Polls to determine the leadership for the Country over the next 5 years. This Cycle marked a huge change in how Elections were organized and tabulated.
Since gaining Independence from Great Britain in 1962 Malawi had always staggered its Elections. One date was held for Local Elections, Another for the Parliament and a Separate day for the Presidential Election. This cycle was the first effort to run these elections at the same time. In a country with 7,537,548 Registered Voters a Simple Majority is needed to determine the outcome.
So what went wrong? Chaos did ensue during the elections that resulted in the torching of several Polling Stations and the Army was called out to restore order. There was a problem with the network that allowed votes that were cast electronically to be tabulated at the Electoral Commission Headquarters. Polling Data taken before the elections were scattered all over the spectrum.
In fact, the Malawi Election Commission warned the media not to mislead the public when it comes to conducting or revealing polls. Official Polls revealed that the Incumbent President Banda would win reelection. But the count was halted after roughly a third of the count was completed. The numbers placed Peter Mutharika in the lead. President Banda was in a distant third place.
After the decision by the President the Opposition went to court and obtained an injunction to have the results announced before the recount that was ordered by President Banda begins. This process is expected to last approximately two months. It is universally felt that any claims of fraud that were made by the President can be addressed by a recount. So why is the President crying foul?
An exit poll conducted between March 23rd and April 7th found that 78% of Malawians felt that the Country was moving in the wrong direction. The same poll found that 50% of the respondents felt that Opposition Candidates were prevented from running for office, One in Three felt that voters were offered bribes and 45% responded that they had some level of fear regarding becoming a victim of Politically Motivated Violence.
But the voters themselves were expecting some issues during this cycle. In the same poll 32% of the respondents expected a free and fair election. This is a decline from 56% which was reported after the 2009 elections. This is a serious matter. Western Donors did reduce Aid to Malawi over Corruption Claims and the Population itself felt the same way regarding the Elections.
It appears that Corruption in Malawi is a serious issue. It will rear its ugly head again within the next 60 Days. The question is how with the neighbors and the AU respond? Malawi is heavily dependent on both Zimbabwe and Mozambique for Trade and Food. to properly gauge a response about how SADC will respond we have to watch the rhetoric that flows out of Maputo and Harare. They have some influence over events in Malawi and will most likely initiate the response of the International Community.
By Scott A. Morgan