National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust says Malawi needs to review the terms of reference (ToRs) for the international election observation missions in order to address mounting public misgivings about their credibility and impartiality in their work.
Nice National Programmes Manager Gray Kalindekafe stressed that the decision by the international election observers last year to back the outcome of the irregularity-riddled presidential election left the majority of Malawians with many questions about their neutrality.
Kalindekafe made the remarks in Lilongwe on Friday during a media visibility reflection meeting.
He said election observation is a valuable tool for improving the quality of elections and building public confidence in the honesty of electoral processes.
“However, the tendency by international election observers, in the past elections, to release reports declaring an election free, fair and credible before [Malawi Electoral Commission] resolved complaints from other contestants created room for speculation among Malawians about the impartiality of the observers. The feeling among Malawians is that these observers side with the governing party,” Kalindekafe said.
He added that reviewing ToRs for the international election observation teams is the only way to revive public trust in their work.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace National Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, supported the proposal, saying international observer teams need to work closely with local observers to avoid coming up with conflicting reports on the outcome of an election.
Chibwana further stated that international election observers need to abide by domestic laws of the country whose election they are observing to build trust in the democratic process and enhance the legitimacy of governments that emerge from elections.
“I know international observer teams read the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act and some sections of our Constitution before embarking on their assignments.
“And they have to abide by those when they are coming to assess the situation on how the election is conducted. But probably it is this tendency of releasing the reports before complaints and irregularities are resolved that needs to be addressed,” he said.