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AU Chair Urges Restraint in Malawi as Parties Argue Over Vote

African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says she is closely following the post-election situation in Malawi and the growing anxiety over operational challenges during the polling phase and the announcement of results.

Following attempts by President Joyce Banda to annul last week’s vote she says was marred by irregularities, Dlamini-Zuma is calling for the general public, political party leaders and civil society organizations to exercise some calm and allow the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to complete its job.

“The MEC must be allowed to take the process to its logical conclusion bearing in mind that Malawi and Malawians deserve to preserve their peace and strengthen their democracy, and uphold constitutionalism and rule of law,” the AU chairperson said in a statement released Monday.

"All key stakeholders must exercise utmost restraint and allow the MEC to discharge its mandate in completing the electoral process taking due cognizance of the independence of the MEC and the integrity of the poll.”

The High Court in Malawi on Saturday over-ruled an attempt by Mrs. Banda to annul the elections she says were marred by rigging.

One of her main rivals, Peter Mutharika, former foreign affairs minister and brother of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, has a lead in unofficial exit polls.

Mrs. Banda’s other main challenger is former preacher, Lazarus Chakwera, representing the Malawi Congress Party, which governed from independence in 1964 until the first multi-party poll in 1994.

Mrs Banda, who came to power two years ago after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, had said a new vote should be held within 90 days and she would not stand again in any new poll.

While congratulating Malawians for the peace and tranquility that has prevailed following last week’s elections, Dlamini-Zuma noted that the MEC has released only results from 31% of the polling centres; received 139 complaints from political parties; detected some anomalies in only 19 out of a total of 1,333 polling centres.

She adds the MEC has, therefore, taken action to quarantine those results and since instituted investigations.

Dlamini Zuma, in the statement, said aggrieved political parties should seek redress through “the competent institutions as provided by the laws of the country”.

She noted that a peaceful Malawi is not only good for Malawians, but it is also good for Africa as a whole.

Human Rights Watch researcher, Dewa Mavhinga, who observed the Malawian elections, says challenges in the southern African nation began with the voting period which he says was chaotic logistically.

“Now there is a standoff which is not healthy for democracy,” says Mavhinga.

“One would hope that sense would prevail and that there would deference to independent and autonomous institutions that are responsible for the management of elections in Malawi to advice on the way forward.”