Friday, May 23, 2014

Malawi Poll Marred By Rigging, Says President Joyce Banda
President Joyce Banda of Malawi says the national elections are
marred by rigging.
BBC World Service

Malawi's elections have been marred by "serious irregularities", including vote-rigging and
computer-hacking, the president has said.

Joyce Banda called for an immediate manual audit of the results.

Mrs Banda faced a strong challenge in Tuesday's election from three other presidential candidates, including ex-Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika.

Earlier, a minister killed himself at his home in the capital, Lilongwe, police say.

Deputy Local Government Minister Godfrey Kamanya was found shot dead inside a locked bedroom.

His spokesman denied reports that his suicide was linked to him apparently losing his parliamentary seat.

However, Mrs Banda released what she said was Mr Kamanya's suicide note which stated that he took his life because he feared being killed by members of Mr Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Plea for calm

In a statement about the elections, Mrs Banda said that irregularities included:
-The arrest of presiding officers who were "caught in the act of rigging"
-Some people voting up to three times
-"Serious anomalies" where some candidates won more votes than the number of registered voters
-Discarded and tampered ballots
-Communication devices of some monitors being blocked.

Mrs Banda also accused a party, which she did not name, of infiltrating and hacking the Malawi Electoral Commission's (MEC) counting system.

The MEC should address these concerns by doing a manual audit of the entire process, she said.

"I appeal to all Malawians to continue with their commitment to peaceful co-existence and to remain calm until the Malawi Electoral Commission determines the outcome of the poll results," the president said.

Eleven candidates ran against Mrs Banda, but her main challenger is seen as Mr Mutharika, the brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office in April 2012.

Voting buckets

MEC chairman Maxon Mbendera denied their computer system had been been hacked.

"Our electronic counting system has crashed, yes, and last night we migrated to our Plan B - manual counting of the results, so I wonder why the People's Party [of Mrs Banda] is complaining since we have not announced any results yet," Mr Mbendera said.

"We are going to give the official results after we have finished tabulation. We expect that in the next two to three days we should have a clear picture," he added.

Mr Mutharika denied the DPP was involved in rigging.

"I don't see how an opposition party can rig elections," he said.

The army and police had been sent to his house on Wednesday to "intimidate" him, and this was "completely uncalled for", Mr Mutharika added.

Voting was still going on at two polling centres in the commercial capital, Blantyre, and one in Lilongwe, two days on from election day, says BBC Malawi reporter Raphael Tenthani.

Voting was disrupted at these centres because of delays in distributing election material, he says.

Frustrated voters set alight one polling station and smashed election material at another.

In some places, voting boxes or lids did not arrive so officials used buckets and plastic wrap, correspondents say.

Around 7.5 million people were eligible to vote in the fifth elections since the end of one-party rule 20 years ago.

This was the first time that Malawi held presidential, parliamentary and local elections on the same day.

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