Malawians see Declining Quality of Elections, Express Little Trust in the Electoral Commission

Joseph J. Chunga

04 Feb 2020

12pages PDF

Last May, Malawians went to the polls for their sixth national election since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1994. The outcome was the most disputed election result in their history, marked by legal challenges, six months of court hearings covered live on leading radio stations, and an unprecedented series of public demonstrations led by the civil-society Human Rights Defenders Coalition demanding the resignation of commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). Nine months later, public debate over the presidential contest rages on, fueled anew by a Constitutional Court ruling this week striking down the MEC’s declaration that President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won re-election with 38.57% of the vote. His closest challengers, Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP, 35.41%) and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM, 20.24%), had asked the court to annul the electoral results, claiming they were rigged. Findings of a new national survey by Afrobarometer suggest that a majority of Malawians share serious concerns about the 2019 election. As of late last year, only a minority said the election was generally free and fair, and citizens overwhelmingly said it was worse in quality than previous elections. Among concerns about various aspects of the electoral process, the major shortcoming cited by a majority of respondents was a faulty declaration of results by the MEC, which was widely perceived as lacking impartiality and trustworthiness.