Editorial CommentOpinion & Analysis

Action speaks louder than words


Pronouncements by the high priests at the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) that they are more than prepared to handle the forthcoming by-elections should, to an extent, give a ray of hope to Malawians that the electoral body has turned a new page.

Over the past years, the public got used to being served with what would best be described as mediocrity by the commission as the inefficiencies registered during each election period appeared to be insurmountable.

Take, for example, the presidential polls of 2004 when the Mgwirizano Coalition and its candidate, the late Gwanda Chakuamba, cried foul over the outcome as announced by Mec, leading to protests in some parts of the country and, sadly, a little girl in Chilobwe, who had nothing to do with the electoral process, paid with her life when the demonstrations degenerated into chaos.


Fast forward to 2014. The public had to wait for over a week, after casting their ballots, before they could hear the results as the computing system for the tallying of results at the Comesa tally centre collapsed. The then commissioners were seemingly overwhelmed with the task before them, and it had to take the intervention of the courts, through one Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda, to declare the winner of the presidential poll.

Memories are still fresh in the minds of Malawians of how some of them resorted to taking to the streets, and creating commotion on the roads, simply because there were insufficient voting materials at polling centres and stations, to the point that others were casting their ballots in plastic buckets that had been improvised by industrious clerks.

That was not all, pockets of rigging complaints were also recorded both in the parliamentary and local government elections, with reports of figures being tampered with in a number of districts.


Thus, the electorate, being a key stakeholder, were left with a lot of unanswered questions during the May 2014 tripartite poll, and in the aftermath of the exercise, as the accompanying violence also led to the loss of a life in Mangochi.

It is, therefore, a relief to hear that Mec has learnt from its mistakes and is implementing changes with a view of instilling confidence in the public and making sure that adequate preparations are done to avoid last minute glitches whose results, as we have come to know, can sometimes be fatal.

The public will continue watching with keen interest as events unfold. Who knows, it could all be more talk and less action on the ground.

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