Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NGO-Gender Coordination Network Observer Mission 2014 Tripartite Elections

Dated 29 May, 2014

NGO-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) was established in 1998 as a grouping of
gender and human rights NGOs that are active in promoting gender equality and equity
including equal participation of women in politics. The NGO-GCN is a leading implementer of the 50-50 campaign in the 2014 Malawi’s tripartite elections.

As part of the 50 -50 campaign, and in collaboration with various stakeholders and partners, the NGO-GCN constituted a Mission to observe the 2014 tripartite elections with a special focus on constituencies that had female candidates. The Mission was deployed in selected districts across the country from 19th May, 2014 to observe the pre election, polling and post election processes with a view to contributing towards free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.

The Observer Mission noted, with appreciation, the participation of women in the 2014
elections including the following: 2 female presidential candidates out of 12 candidates; 261 female parliamentary candidates out of 1288; 417 female candidates who contested as councillors out of 2378 candidates; an increasing number of female electoral officials and a high number of women who turned out to vote.

From its observation, the NGO-GCN Observer Mission noted, with concern, a number of serious irregularities in the period before, during and after polling. These include:

a. A hostile environment for female candidates during the campaign period, created by
fellow candidates who were using intimidating and derogatory language and in some
cases incited violence against female candidates;

b. Low and predominantly negative media coverage of female candidates;

c. Late opening of polling stations due to logistical problems;

d. Shortage of materials such as ballot papers, ballot boxes, ink, pencils, lamps and results’ forms with some centres improvising by using buckets as ballot boxes;
e. Voting late in the evening especially in centres that received voting materials late and had to open late;

f. Missing voters roll;

g. Minimal assistance to pregnant women, women with children and in some cases elderly
women and men who were left to queue for long periods of time;

h. Unsecured ballot boxes, and;

i. Irregular recording of poll results with some forms not procedurally signed by all the required parties.

The Observer team also notes that these irregularities disproportionately and negatively affected women voters more than male voters. There was evidence for example, of women who gave up voting after waiting for too long for the polling station to open and women who could not vote late in the evening for safety reasons. A number of complaints have been filed by female candidates citing most of the above irregularities.

Furthermore, other irregularities have been observed during the tallying of results at the National Tally Centre and the resultant court proceedings. The NGOGCN believes some of these activities will ultimately, adversely affect the credibility of the results, undermine the electoral process and cause increasing anxiety and a sense of insecurity among the citizens in the country. Unfortunately, previous evidence shows how such anxiety and insecurity affects women much more than men and increases vulnerability of the majority of women.

In view of the above observations the NGO-GCN calls on the Malawi Electoral Commission to ensure that:

a. All complaints filed by female candidates are properly recorded in a sex disaggregated format and that all such complaints are effectively dealt with before they escalate and cause serious disturbances;

b. Lessons are drawn on how gendered the impact of electoral anomalies is and on how to
effectively deal with similar irregularities in future in a gender sensitive manner;

c. The credibility of the elections is maintained through speedy responses to complaints and that the rule of law is adhered to throughout the electoral process;

d. The gendered effect of national tensions and anxiety is taken into consideration in all decisions affecting the resolution of electoral disputes;

e. There is certainty on the dates for determination and release of polling results, and that;

f. There are timely updates on all developments surrounding the electoral process.

The NGO-GCN further:

a. calls on all those in positions of power including political parties to act with utmost restraint and desist from use of inflammatory language and actions that may increase the tension and anxiety among citizens especially women;

b. requests Government to ensure that there is increased security in the country to reduce the rising sense of insecurity among Malawians, especially women, and;

c. calls on the media to provide equitable coverage of women as candidates, as voters and as sources of information and to provide space for women specific issues related to the 2014 tripartite elections.

The NGO-GCN will continue to monitor the counting and tallying of the election results as it awaits the announcement of the elections’ official results.

Signed :
Name: Emma Kaliya, NGOGCN Chairperson

Name: Victor Maulidi, Network Coordinator

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