Preliminary Pre-elections Situation Analysis Report

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Malawi 2014 tripartite elections

Preliminary Pre elections Situation Analysis Report

The political context of 2014 tripartite elections – The 2014 tripartite elections in Malawi, which are the fifth multiparty elections and the first tripartite elections are taking place at a time when Malawi clocks 50 years of independence and 20 years of multiparty democracy.  Whilst the journey of the last two decades has been a political roller coaster ride, the period between 2009 -2011  had been particularly tenuous. The death of President Mutharika in April 2012 and the succession of Joyce Banda surviving a coup attempt by the senior Cabinet members of Mutharika government gave a ray of hope for democracy and constitutionalism. Things did start to change for the better under the Joyce Banda administration , however, in the later part of 2013  the exposure of blatant fraud and massive financial embezzlement of tax coffers by senior government officials at Capital Hill, commonly called the ‘Cashgate’ demonstrated the entrenched corruption and weak mechanisms to deal with it.  At the regional level the elections are taking place during Malawi’s chair of SADC and elections having been held in South Africa and to be held in Botswana and Mozambique.  A credible election in Malawi will no doubt have a positive influence on elections in the sub-region and the continent. 

The electoral legal framework: The electoral process in Malawi is governed by the laws of Malawi comprising of the Constitution, the Parliamentary & Presidential Act, the Local Government Elections Act and the Electoral Commission Act. In 2012, Parliament amended the Constitution to allow for tripartite elections, which meant that the Parliamentary, Presidential and Local Government Elections would be conducted simultaneously. The Parliament further passed a resolution tasking the Electoral Commission to spearhead the harmonization of Electoral Laws to allow for the effective and efficient conduct and holding of tripartite Elections. MEC was to discharge this duty in direct liaison with the Law Commission and would include the review of various recommendations by stakeholders on elections and isolate those critical issues that require amendment of the law. The objectives of the harmonization process were:

  • To propose amendments that would align the electoral laws with Malawi’s international and regional obligations and commitments on elections;
  • To propose amendments for a bill, which would be considered for tabling in the February 2013 sitting of Parliament;
  • To synchronize electoral laws;

However, not all of the above have been achieved as not all proposed amendments have yet been tabled or passed by the National Assembly.


The electoral law provides for election observation in all three phases of election. In practice observers have unhindered access to polling sites.  There is no evidence to suggest that any domestic or international observers seeking to observe elections were denied accreditation.

The Local Government  Amendment  Bill of 2010:  Since 1994 Malawi had local government elections only once in the year 2001 and the councilors term ended in 2005. Since then there has been a vacuum.  Ward Councilors will be elected into office under  several unpopular 2010 Local Government and Electoral Law amendments which have not yet been reviewed.  By making MPs decision makers at the local level the amendments undermine the councilors representative role, especially regarding development priorities.

Elections Management Body - The institution responsible for managing elections is clearly defined in chapter VII sections 75 to 77 of the Constitution of Malawi. In addition, the 1998 electoral Commission Act, the 1993 Presidential and Parliamentary elections Act, and the Local Government Act define the mandate, powers and functions of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). The structure of the MEC is spelled out in the Electoral Commission Act. It comprises of the Commission which consists of a chairperson, who has to be a judge and such other members not being less than six. The Commissioners are supported by a MEC secretariat headed by the Chief Elections Officer and has a number of directorates.


Appointment of Commissioners became contentious since the run up to 2004 elections with political parties becoming more diverse and fractured. Constitutionally, the President shall in consultation with the leaders of the political parties represented in the National Assembly, appoint suitably qualified persons to be members of the Commission. Until there was some sort of stable three party system with the Alliance for Democracy, Malawi Congress Party and the United Democratic Front in the National Assembly, each party had fair representation in the Commission.  But, with more parties coming into the National Assembly in 2004 the principle of inclusivity did not continue to work and smaller parties felt excluded in the Commission. This would have perhaps not been an issue had MEC  demonstrated neutrality and independence but this was not the case. None of the new parties that were formed in the run-up to the 2004 elections had the possibility to nominate candidates and this became a major issue between the opposition in parliament and the government between 2005 – 2009.


The tension between Mutharika and the dominant opposition parties in the National Assembly also reflected on appointment of MEC Commissioners when the new commissioners appointed by Mutharika in 2006 were rejected by party leaders in parliament and the opposition party leaders in parliament obtained a court injunction that blocked the inauguration of the new electoral commissionaires. In 2007, the president renewed the nominations but added four new names. Again the court blocked the inauguration. He subsequently asked the party leaders to nominate candidates, but chose to ignore all nominations and re-appointed eight of his original nine members, plus three more names.’ Again, a court injunction blocked the formal inauguration ceremony.  Only in January 2008 did the MEC become operational when

a sufficient number of commissioners were inaugurated.  This left the Commission non functional for fourteen months. If elections are to be considered as an ongoing political process rather than a one-day event, ‘the near paralysis of the electoral management for a period of 14 months, while waiting for new commissioners to be appointed, should be regarded as a serious impediment to the quality of the 2009 electoral process’.

In the run up to 2014 elections the scenario of discontinuity in the Commission prevailed. In January 2012 only one Commissioner was left in the Commission. The term of office had expired for four of its members, one member had died in 2011 and another had been appointed ambassador to the United States. That the term of office would expire was of course well known in advance, and pre­sumably the appointment of the ambassador was not made out of the blue. If the President had so wished, five new commissioners could have been appointed early to ensure a smooth transfer to a new commission. But this did not happen because the President chose not to do so.


The issue of independence of the Electoral Commission also stands out by an act of the State President in the year 2010, by unilaterally and abruptly closing down the MEC, having the offices sealed and deploy armed policemen to guard the premises. This act had no legal basis and raises questions about the independence of MEC.

In violation of its constitutional independence, late President Mutharika had collectively suspended the Commission for alleged embezzlement, a censure that effectively aborted conduct of 2010 Local Government elections. Instead of producing conclusive evidence and prosecuting suspects, the late President collectively reinstated MEC staff in April 2011.


Constituency and Ward delimitation: Since 1998 constituency demarcation has not been done although the Constitution in Section 76 (2) (b) empowers the commission to review existing constituencies at intervals of not more than five years and alter them in accordance with the principal laid down in the same section.


Ward boundaries have been reduced in number per districts based on the Electoral Commission (Amended) 2010 Act. The Act stipulated that there shall be 2 wards for each parliamentary constituency, except that, in the case of cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the number of wards shall be 30, and in the case of the City of Mzuzu and the City of Zomba, the number of wards shall be 15 and 10, respectively. This has implications for small districts such as Likoma and Balaka which implies that the number of councillors will be very low. For instance in Likoma, the situation implies that they shall have only two councillors in the district. Another problem with this amendment relates to the rationale for the baseline of determining wards. Determining wards based on parliamentary constituency make councillors to be hierarchically under MPs: a situation that would undermine the former’s independence and local representational role.

Election preparedness

The Malawi Constitution provides a basis for the country’s electoral calendar. The Constitution provides for presidential and parliamentary elections every five years. Delays in releasing a pre-election calendar of events and in the slow and limited accreditation of civil society organisations and election observers have been noted much as this time there were some major improvements compared to the past elections. The delays were caused mostly by the late appointment of the new Commission which was appointed in October 2012, just about one and half years to the elections.

Voter registration


Voter registration for the 2014 tripartite elections was organised in nine phases of 14 days each from 22nd July to 18th December 2013, and, due to shortage of equipment, extended to 4th January 2014 . At the end of the exercise, 7,537, 548 voters were registered representing 94.1% of the projected total of 8,009,734; and 16% above the 2009 figure, and 11.2% above the 2010 registration for the failed local government elections. These figures have been disputed by some analysts including academics and statisticians based at the National Statistical Office (NSO) as being “unrealistic” because, they argue, the voting age in Malawi is lower than these figures suggest. The suspicion is that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) may have registered some under-aged (individuals below 18 years). After the verification process, MEC announced that 7,470,806 registered voters had been verified, a downward variation of 66,742 due to “arithmetical errors” in computation.


What is perturbing is two days prior to the polls the final voter rolls have not been sent to the districts and to political parties. MEC is reportedly printing the voters roll at this hour to be despatched to the districts.


The voter registration process was much better organised and with fewer hiccups than was previously the case. MEC announced the adoption of the Electronic Biometric Voter Registration System (EBVRS) to address the enormous challenges previously experienced in maintaining a credible voters’ roll. The EBVRS involves the use of biometric technologies with the use of computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras to capture the bio-data of a voter at the registration point. With this new technology MEC would have been in a position to detect and remove multiple registrations and to update and verify the voters’ roll speedily. The system was abandoned due to technical and other capacity challenges. The voters roll therefore continues to face the same challenges as before. MEC did not also implement the opposition political parties’ request that the voters’ roll should be verified after each phase of registration.

Nominations:  Party conventions were held with varying degrees of open and competitive elections for senior positions in the party. Selection of running mates however, was not done by consensus but rather as a personal prerogative of the party President. The party primary elections for nominations of parliamentary candidates in some of these parties continue to suffer from imposition and coercion.  There was an evident lack of preparation on the part of all parties for the election of councillors. In most cases these candidates were handpicked. One worrying aspect of nominations for 2014 elections is filing in nominations by some facing charges in court of law  ranging from murder, financial embezzlement and plotting coup to prevent constitutional order to take course. kSection 80 (7) (C) bars those convicted of “a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude” from being nominated for political office. The applicability of this section of the law is therefore confined to those who have been “convicted”. It does not include those who have been “charged”, or are under investigation. Politically this raises serious concerns of the credibility and public image of such individuals and the body that accepts their nominations.

Lists of candidates

In total, 12 candidates were confirmed for the presidential race as follows:

Presidential Candidates

1. People’s Party (PP) Dr Joyce Hilda Banda F
2. Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera M
3. People’s Transformation Party (PETRA) Kamuzu Walter Chibambo M
4. New Labour Party (NLP)   Friday Anderson Jumbe M
5. Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP) Aaron Davies Chester Katsonga M
6. Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM) Mark Katsonga Phiri M
7. United Democratic Front (UDF) Atupele Muluzi M
8. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Prof. Peter Mutharika M
9. Malawi Forum for Unity and Development (MAFUNDE) George Nnesa M
10. National Salvation Front (NASAF) James Mbowe Nyondo M
11. United Independence Party (UIP) Abusa Helen Singh F
12 Umodzi Party Prof. John Chisi M


Initially Professor John  Chisi of Umodzi Party was disqualified for being employed by the University of Malawi and therefore regarded to be a public servant. The Malawi electoral law bars public servants from standing for political office. Chisi challenged the MEC decision in court and won. His case demonstrates MEC’s  subjectivity in the interpretation of law on this issue.

Number of contestants for Parliamentary seats

1290 nominations were accepted for the parliamentary race, and 2 were rejected for the same reasons as those of Professor Chisi. The rejected 2 also challenged the MEC decision in court and won. The distribution of candidates by party affiliation is as follows:


Number of seats contested Number of candidates Male Female
193 1290 1033 257 


In addition, 402 independents have been nominated, 315 males and 87 females.

Number of contestants for Wards

For the local government elections 2,398 nominations were accepted as follows:

Total number of wards Total number of contestants Male Female
462 2398 1981 417 

Source: MEC   notifications on nominations

On the lists of candidates the following anomalies have been noted:

  • The lists for parliamentary and ward councillors that appeared on the MEC website by first week of May 2014 had not been updated. The names of the candidates who had won the court cases were not included.
  • The MEC lists also showed two candidates for the same party in some wards, such as in Balaka.
  • There were some inconsistencies in the numbers of candidates that the political parties had in their databases and those that MEC had, for example for DPP, MCP, PP and UDF.

Female representation

Ensuring gender equality and women’s participation is critical to a democratic system of governance.  The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which Malawi is a party, calls for all parties to grant women equal rights with men. The Malawi Constitution not only prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex (section 20), but also provides specific provisions on the rights of women. In Section 24 (1) the Constitution states that women have the right to full and equal protection by the law, and have the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender or marital status which includes the right to be accorded the same rights as men in civil law; to enter into contracts; to acquire and maintain rights in property, independently or in association with others; to a fair disposition of property that is held jointly with a husband; to acquire and retain custody, guardianship and care of children; and to acquire and retain citizenship and nationality, among others.


In 2004, out of a total of 1,246 candidates, only 154 or 12.4 per cent were female. Noticeable was the low numbers of female candidates in the large parties with a national character, such as the MCP, the NDA, the PPM and the UDF. Lack of party support was the major cause for women standing as independents. The majority of women who stood as independents had earlier been rejected by their political parties or had lost to men in the primaries, because their party executives and members preferred male candidates. The 2009 elections saw a number of breakthroughs in terms of women’s participation in the democratic process. A total of 238 women contested the Parliamentary elections, representing 20.3% of the total number of candidates, and there was one female presidential candidate. In addition to the appointment of Malawi’s first female vice president, the elections saw 41 women winning Parliamentary seats and a solid turnout from female voters. These achievements have largely been attributed to the joint campaign of civil society groups, international development partners and the government, popularly known as the 50/50 campaign – targeting 50% female representation in Parliament, which was however not achieved. The largest slice of funding for the campaign, aimed at helping female candidates campaign more effectively during the election period, came from DfID and the UNFPA. Another breakthrough was the appointment of 11 women to cabinet positions, representing 26% of the cabinet team – compared to seven out of 42 (or 17%) in the previous cabinet. It was expected that the existence of a female vice president and more female MPs would raise the profile of women’s, and children’s, issues in the country although there is still much work to be done to give women a bigger role in Malawi’s government, and indeed to reduce the marginalisation of women across society.


The nomination lists for the 2014 tripartite elections show that 2 females have been nominated for the presidency, 257 for parliament – increase from 238 in 2009, and 417 for ward councillor. The percentage of the female presidential candidates is therefore 16.6% , and 19.9% for parliamentary candidates, and 17.3% for ward councillors. The percentage of female candidates in the parliamentary race has in fact gone down slightly from 20.3% in 2009 though there has been a minimal and less impressive increase in the absolute numbers. The decline is on account of the increase in the numbers of male candidates.


Political parties do not have quotas or affirmative policies for female representation. Male dominance and the view that politics is “dirty” (where abusive language and violence are norms) deter some women from putting their names up for nomination. The fee requirement for nomination, MK100,000 for female parliamentary candidates and MK15,000 for female ward councillor candidates may be prohibitive for most women, especially those unemployed and those in the rural areas.

Youth representation

The 2014 electoral race has one Presidential candidate and three running mates who are in their youth.  At constituency and wards levels too there are a number of youth contestants though data is not available.  As a step to ensure that the youth is not used to perpetuate violence and other destructive activities, youth organisations such as the Malawi Human Rights Youth Network and the Young Politicians Union organised activities like interparty peace march and signing of peace declaration by all contending parties.  As the case with female representation, political parties do not have youth quotas and affirmative policies for you representation.

Voter education

The Electoral Commission Act mandates the Malawi Electoral Commission to provide voter education. The Commission has a department responsible for the task. However, the Commission’s ability to successfully amount a large scale voter education campaign is limited by inadequate capacity. The Commission does not have its own staff in the districts to carry out the task. It depends on civil servants and other public service employees. The Commission also lacks proper equipment and facilities of its own. As a result, the most effective institutions in delivering civic and voter education have been the civil society bodies. Granted their successes, they are, themselves, limited by inadequate financial resources, personnel and other facilities.


Being the first tripartite elections, and given the fact that local government elections were taking place after a lapse of eight years, much emphasis and attention was required to highlight the roles and responsibilities of Member of Parliament and ward councillor not only for the voters but also for the candidates. Owing to the constraints mentioned, adequate civic education has not been carried out addressing this issue.

Civil society organizations

CSOs in Malawi, entered the Civic and Voter education exercise for the 2014 tripartite elections in a weakened position. The following factors account for this:

(i)     Brutalized and traumatized movement: The events of 2009-2011 left the CSO movement in the country undermined in many ways. Some CSOs had their offices torched, and their leaders politically and physically harassed. To date, there has been no process of healing. Suspicion characterizes the relationship between CSOs and the government. Much as CSO leaders have welcomed the end of harassment experienced between 2009 and 2011, many still doubt the durability of the government’s current approach.

(ii)   Shake up in the CSO movement in the last five years: The 2009-2011 events also caused a huge shake up in the CSO movement. A few CSO leaders have been reduced to hand clappers, some warehoused, others silenced or have joined active politics – resulting in undermining of CSO voice, loss of institutional memory, expertise and skills.

(iii) Questionable CSO institutional authority and credibility in some cases: There was a discord in expectations between CSOs and the populace in 2011. The majority of Malawians probably wanted the government of the time to go, while most CSO leaders were content with a political settlement of some kind. The dialogue process between CSOs and the government was never concluded, resulting in an incomplete political settlement. As a result, the political and institutional authority and the credibility of most CSOs in the country are rather questionable at the moment.

(iv)  Weak horizontal linkages between international non-governmental organizations and (INGOs) and local CSOs, characterized by “unnecessary” competition between them – resulting in the loss of opportunity to galvanize support and create a united voice.

(v)    Non-existence of a national CSO forum: Existing umbrella bodies such as the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and the Council for Non-governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA) are perceived not to be doing enough, compounded by a rather controversial legal framework for the latter.

(vi)  Weak horizontal linkages with the rather apathetic private sector/corporate world: The Malawi CSO have a very weak link with the private sector. The latter are also rather apathetic when it comes to their participation (or influence) in political matters, much as they are aware that bad politics and poor governance create a bad environment for them.

(vii)       Declining funding both at the local and international levels, at a time when governance issues are becoming more prominent.

(viii)    Few pool/basket funding mechanisms, eg the Tilitonse fund, for support for governance issues.

These developments may affect the degree of public trust in CSOs, the degree of CSOs’ trust in government and state institutions; the extent to which the CSOs can work together as one body of institutions, the credibility of the CSOs, and the level of networking and coordination between the CSOs.

Election funding

These challenges will be compounded by the lack or inadequacy of funding for the elections, as well as delays in the funding. Inadequate and delayed funding will affect the operations of both the CSOs and the MEC. By May 2013, most development partners had made only pledges, or partial funding, for the May 2014 elections. For example, the European Union (EU), one of the major sources of election funding in the country, promised to increase its funding from €1.5 million to about €5 million towards the end of the year. This is a reallocation within the €30 million envelope under the financing agreement for the democratic governance programme, where the EU channels resources towards democratic consolidation – it is not new money. The increase in the funding, is in the wake of resource constraints that the country’s electoral process faces at all levels. This necessitated the government to write a proposal for extra funding towards the tripartite election. Part of this funding will support the election-related programmes of the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust.


Controversy surrounds the funding that comes from USAID and DfID through the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Malawi CSOs are of the opinion that the amounts involved are rather on the low side and the involvement of a third-party grants managing institution, is unnecessary as it increases overhead costs that go to NDI itself. NDI’s central role in grants management, arguably, undermines the growth of capacity of the local CSOs. The requirements for accessing the grants are restrictive and the grant accounting procedures are tedious, forcing CSOs to spend more effort and time in managing the grants rather than conducting activities in the field.


It has further been observed that the external funding has not been systematic and timely. Most NGOs got funding very late and thus could not carry out effective civic education. The basket funding approach like in the past seem more effective and should have been adopted.

Complexity of 2014 elections

MEC accredited about 140  civil society bodies to provide voter education and related services for the 2014 tripartite elections. Of these, about 40 got funding for provision of civic education. The funding came rather  late, and in  in inadequate amounts. Some development partners also demonstrated preference for specific civic bodies for election funding, leaving out the majority of CSOs. For example, the European Uninion preferred to fund NICE while the Norwegian Embassy funded 8 out of the 47 institutions in the 50/50 Campaign Network.


Much of the funding for voter education by CSOs was  channelled through international intermediaries resulting in further undermining the capacity of local CSOs. Consequently, the efforts to provide voter education for all citizens have been far from being adequate.

Media coverage

The media play an important role in influencing voters not only to vote but also to make the right choices. A noticeable improvement in the 2014 elections was the provision of funding to some key media institutions by development partners. A number of media houses, both print and electronic, received direct funding to cover election related activities.


The public broadcasters, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and Television Malawi (TV) are mandated by law to provide unbiased election coverage and voter education. There are very serious concerns about bias in the content of public broadcasting for the 2014 elections. An April 2014 media monitoring study report by the IWPR/USAID/DFID Media Monitoring Project showed that media coverage is Executive-focused, 37.9% coverage for presidential candidates compared to 11% for parliamentary candidates and 1.7% ward councilors. The public broadcasters provided 70% coverage to the incumbent People’s Party presidential candidate, compared to less than 10% for all the over candidates. ZBS provided more balanced coverage of all the presidential candidates, but still only up 20% and below of the total coverage.

The private media have comparatively provided better coverage of all the key political players in these elections. However, they, too, have been rather limited in terms of the themes covered, the key issues raised, and in providing space for dialogue between the candidates and the voters. The electoral process received 32% coverage, followed by law and order at 9%, corruption and cashgate at 8% and the economy again at 8%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Public debates and dialogue

The dialogue between the candidates and the voters has mostly been in the form of debates at the presidential,  parliamentary and ward levels. The public opinion as expressed in the media is that the candidates failed to impress. With the exception of one or two, they were generally not able to clearly articulate their policy positions and to turn these into political messages, and to appeal to the voters to vote for them. There was no real debate between/among the candidates themselves. The candidates did not take each other on on particular issues and especially where there were possibilities for some major differences among them. However, the initiative was innovative.

Campaign process

There is no law regulating campaign financing in Malawi. Parties and candidates do not have any legal obligation to declare their sources of funding. Public resources can therefore be used for political campaigns, especially by the incumbent. There is also no law imposing campaign spending limits. Lack of such law encourages politicians or those with vested interests in accessing power to invest huge amounts of resources in the distribution of handouts which facilitates political patronage and creates an unlevelled playing field.

Human right violations and campaign violence

The MESN long term election observation report for April 2014 indicated that there were a total of forty- three (43) human rights violation incidents recorded, and five cases of disruption of political campaign activities, and eight cases of intimidation or harassment occurred in the same period. The observers also noted two cases of voters forced to attend political meetings. Voter ID buying was also recorded in four incidences. There were twenty–nine (29) reported cases that the observers recorded under human rights violations. Two fatalities and many injuries were reported just days before the beginning of the official campaign  period.  These cases suggest that human rights violations, campaign violence, and other malpractices are a reality.

Handouts and undue advantage

A levelled playing field is one of the key determinants of fairness of an election. This implies that no election candidate should have undue advantage over others. Section 193 (4) of the Malawi Constitution prohibits the use of public resources for political purposes. There are also restrictions on the use of civil service employees in political party activities. The Constitution mandates the Civil Service Commission, set up under Chapter XX of the Constitution, to take up legal proceedings in the High Court against ‘a government or political party or member of a political party’ who contravenes these rules.


It has been observed that Ministers who are running for parliamentary seats often use state vehicles and government personnel while campaigning. The State President is the worst violator of the constitutional provisions that prohibit use of public resources for political purposes. In the name of “development activities” the State President uses public resources and facilities for campaign purposes. These include government vehicles, public media (MBC and TVM), government personnel and resources donated to government by external governments and bodies. For example, the State President distributes externally donated maize and other gifts during her campaign rallies. The Mudzi Transformation Trust, endorsed by Parliament, and generates resources as a state trust, is used as a personal private enterprise to provide housing to poor people, in the name of rural development. The State President uses these resources for her personal campaign for re-election. The culture of hand outs creates a patron-client relationship that favours the incumbent and disadvantages the political players.


More controversially is the use of chiefs in political activities. The endorsement of a traditional leader plays an important part in the selection of elected or un-elected officials at the local level though the general argument is that chiefs should be politically neutral. Election observation reports by both local and international observers indicate widespread use of chiefs by the ruling party to intimidate opposition party supporters and candidates. This practice is widespread in the country. It is also practiced by opposition politicians to frustrate the efforts of the party in power, to the extent that in June 2013 President Banda warned her fellow politicians “against using chiefs to score political mileage”. President Banda, herself, has appointed and promoted more chiefs than any other Malawi president before her and uses them in her distribution of patronage and for political campaigns. Some critics, particularly in civil society and the media, have argued that the appointment and promotion of large numbers of chiefs amounts to political manipulation and a “political gimmick” that advantages her during this election period.




The foregoing account suggests that there have been some improvements over the previous four elections.  However, there are still some major challenges.

On the improvements, the following are noted:

  • The phasing of the voter registration process was a good innovation as it allowed for flexibility and extensions where required.
  • Communication and information flow from MEC has greatly improved, with timely reporting and consultation with key stakeholders.
  • The level of bias on the part of the election management body had abated. Previous elections were characterized serious accusations of MEC bias, not so common this time around.
  • The presidential debates have been an important innovation. They have provided the candidates the opportunity to dialogue with the voters and to turn this into an  issue-based campaign.
  • Though MBC and TVM still have 70% coverage of the incumbent, this is an improvement from the 90% or more from in the previous elections.
  • The inclusion of younger and new  candidates in the presidential and parliamentary contests assures the country of leadership renewal. New and future political leaders are emerging in the country.

On the challenges side, the following are noted:

  • The legal framework  is still problematic, with incomplete harmonization of the laws . The unpopular Local Government Amendment Act of 2010 not reviewed.
  • The late appointment of Commissioners resulted in delays in the release of the electoral calendar. The Commission was also totally new, except for one members from an early Commission, which may have affected institutional memory.
  • The credibility of the voters roll is still questionable with the clean up exercise not being thorough and complete.
  • The list of candidates for constituencies and wards are not thoroughly cleaned up with anomalies like two candidates in one ward, and names of candidates missing in some constituencies.
  • Inadequate  funding for the elections and civic education may affect the quality of the electoral process and the civic education itself.
  • Local government elections being sidelined in the entire electoral process.
  • Fatalities have already been reported, coming days before the official opening of the campaign period. This raises concerns about possibility of post-election violence.
  • Public media coverage is too executive-focused, with less attention to the local government elections
  • The playing is far from being level field. The distribution of handouts,  use of public resources, and the involvement of chiefs in politics have created a political environment that has resulted in the unlevel playing field.
  • Two to three years prior to the elections civil society organizations were battered and brutalized, this, coupled with poor funding for civic education, have undermined the capacity for these bodies to effectively contribute to the election processes in the country.
  • Much as there has been some increase in the numbers of female contestants in these elections, the increases are rather minimal. In percentage, the number of female parliamentary candidates has in fact gone down compared to that of men.

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