By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire Correspondent
NNPA delegation to observe Malawi elections
LILONGWE MALAWI, AFRICA —May 22, 2019 — Late Wednesday, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) head, Dr. Jane Ansa, continued to urge the international media and local stakeholders to hold off from announcing premature election results. The country’s activated election system received praise for the peaceful way its 6.9 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday.
With lines in some places that stretched as far as the eye could see – and after many voters walked several miles to participate – the process had some noting that the Western world, including the United States, could learn a lesson from Malawians in Democracy.
“After the election, life has to continue … we are brothers and sisters,” said Augustine Suwedi Chidzanja, an election official in the Salima Central District, which is about 90 minutes from Lilongwe.
In a meeting with National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., who headed an independent African American Election Observers Team, Chidzanja said he was surprised to learn that many Americans aren’t allowed to vote if they have a felony criminal record.
“Prisoners here in Malawi do vote,” he said, as an assistant observed that he didn’t see a deterrent that would keep Americans in prison from returning to prison upon release because “all their rights” have been taking away.
“We are living in Malawi and we think that the United States is the No. 1 Democracy, but what [I now understand] leaves a lot to be desired,” said Chidzanja, who also noted that while America has a two-party system, Malawi has 51 political parties.
The top three presidential candidates in Malawi’s 2019 Tripartite elections – Incumbent Peter Arthur Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) – each cast their vote in their respective villages.
Mutharika, 78, voted in Thyolo; Chakwera, 64, voted in Malembo; and Chilima, 46, cast his ballot in Lilongwe.
The first election results numbers authorized by MEC showed Chakwera in the lead with 533,217 votes (37.65 percent), Mutharika at 524,247 (37.01 percent), and Chilima at 293,978 (20.76 percent).
Malawi operates a first past the post system, which means whoever comes out on top regardless of the percentage will be declared winner – in contrast, America’s Electoral College System allows for someone to win the presidency even if they lose the popular vote.
“It is pleasing to note that polling appears to be underway in all the areas where we have observers, meaning materials have been delivered and polling staff were ready,” said European Union Elections Observer Mission (EUOM) Chief Miroslav Poche. The EUOM deployed more than 80 staff members at polling stations across the country.
It’s believed that the voter turnout may have exceeded 90 percent. “We salute the people of Malawi for their historic voter turnout and exhibition of true Democracy for all of the people,” Chavis said.
“Multi-party elections don’t exist in the United States of America, yet here in the heart of Africa in Malawi and in other nations across the continent, there are, in fact, successful multi-party elections that provide a wide diversity of political opinions for all those who vote,” Chavis said.
The NNPA president and CEO also said it’s his intention to invite officials from Malawi to observe the 2020 elections in the United States. “Maybe Americans can learn something from Africans about how to fully embrace and practice democracy for all without voter discrimination or suppression,” Chavis said.
Chidzanja indicated that he’d relish the opportunity to observe the U.S. election.
“We will keep in touch as brothers and sisters after this,” Chidzanja said. “We are brothers and sisters no matter how many parties there are. There’s a lot to be done and, after the elections, life continues, so think of Malawi as your home,” he said.