Sunday, June 1, 2014
MESN PVT VALIDATES MEC’S OFFICIAL RESULTS
MESN Statement on Announcement of Official Presidential Results by the MEC
Delivered in Blantyre – 31 May 2014
Yesterday, 30 May 2014, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced the official results for the presidential election. The Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN), as part of our comprehensive observation effort for the 2014 Tripartite Elections, conducted a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) exercise to provide independent verification of the accuracy of those results. The results announced by MEC track closely with data obtained by the PVT, and thus, MESN can state with confidence that despite the challenges which plagued the tallying process the official results for the presidential election are an accurate reflection of ballots cast.
The 2014 Tripartite Elections were observed by more than 10,000 observers drawn from Malawi, Southern Africa, across the continent and the broader international community. Not only MESN, but also the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth, and the European Union (EU) all have acknowledged shortcomings in the MEC’s conduct of the elections, but all have also clearly stated that these did not fundamentally undermine the integrity of the process.
Further, political parties deployed thousands of party agents to polling stations to witness setup, voting and counting. Most importantly, they were given an opportunity to sign the official presidential results form (MEC.060c). At the vast majority of polling stations agents from DPP, MCP, PP and UDF were present and signed these forms, showing across the political spectrum that despite the challenges on Election Day the process worked (see Appendix 3 for information on political party polling agents at polling streams signing the official results).
As MESN stated in its preliminary statement on 24 May, the 2014 Tripartite Elections have not been a step forward. In particular, there were serious challenges with: the production of the voter’s register; the delivery of materials to polling stations; and the tallying of results. While these issues did not ultimately undermine the credibility of the process, neither did they build public confidence in our democratic institutions. This was Malawi’s fourth election since the re-introduction of multiparty politics, and Malawians deserve better.
Following the elections there must be serious soul searching by all stakeholders, meaningful electoral reform, and tangible actions to ensure the 2019 elections meet the expectations of the Malawian people. As a first step, MESN urges the MEC to immediately release polling station results for all three elections (presidential, parliamentary and local councillor). This will help enhance transparency and start the process of rebuilding public confidence in the MEC.
For each of the four top vote-getting candidates, the official result as announced by the MEC falls within the PVT estimated range. The PVT estimated Dr. Joyce Banda should receive between 18.2% and 21.8% of the vote, and she received 20.2% of the vote according to MEC’s official results. The PVT estimated Dr. Lazarus Chakwera should between 25.1% and 31.7% of the vote, and he received 27.8% of the vote according to MEC’s official results. The PVT estimated Atupele Muluzi should receive between 11.9% and 15.5% of the vote, and he received 13.7% of the vote according the MEC’s official results. The PVT estimated Prof. Peter Mutharika should receive between 32.7% and 39.3% of the vote, and he received 36.4% of the vote according to MEC’s official results. Thus, MESN can confidently and independently verify the accuracy of the official results as announced by the MEC.
MESN PVT Estimates for Presidential Election
(795 of 800 (99%) polling stations reporting with 922,219 valid votes cast)
Similarly, the MEC announced official turnout for the presidential election at 70.8%, which falls within the PVT estimated range of between 68.7% to 72.5%.
Concerns have been raised about the possibility of polling stations with turnout of over 100%. MESN’s PVT Observers did report that there were polling stations with turnout of over 100%, but this affected only 2% of all sampled polling stations and in most cases these were only small discrepancies. MESN PVT Observers reported another 2% of polling sampled stations with a turnout of between 95% and 100%. However, these polling stations with high turnout did not benefit any particular political party. The data from the PVT demonstrates that if the results for all of these polling stations were thrown out it would not change the outcome of the presidential election. MESN, however, would not recommend the votes from these stations be disregarded, unless further investigation reveals there are problems with those votes.
MESN deployed 800 trained and accredited PVT Observers to a representative random sample of polling stations, representing more than 1.3 million registered voters, located across all three regions, all 28 districts and all 193 constituencies (see Appendix 1 for distribution of MESN’s PVT Observers). MESN’s PVT Observers arrived at polling stations at 5am and observed the entire process starting with the setup of polling stations through voting and finally counting and the announcement of results for the polling stations. MESN PVT Observers recorded the official results as announced by the presiding officer and transmitted these to a central data centre by coded text message.
All PVT reports were verified for accuracy and have since been checked against the original paper PVT checklists. PVT Observers did not count any ballot papers themselves nor did they ask any voter how he/she voted. The PVT did not rely on any information from print or electronic media. It is an entirely independent exercise conducted solely by MESN with the intent of providing independent information on the accuracy of the official result of the presidential election regardless of the outcome.
The PVT methodology is based upon well-established and widely-accepted statistical principles. PVT’s are a common tool of citizen observation and have been conducted across Africa, including: Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. The PVT is not new to Malawi. The methodology was employed here in 1999 by the Church NGO Consortium and 2009 by MESN – in both cases the PVT verified the accuracy of the official results (see Appendix 2 for examples of results verification using PVTs from Africa).
Because the methodology involves collecting official results from a representative random sample, the PVT provides an estimated range within which each candidate’s percentage of the vote should fall within rather than a specific percentage of the vote for each candidate. The PVT methodology relies upon a sample to enable the highest standards to be employed in the recruitment and training of observers. This ensures the PVT provides the most reliable and accurate data possible.
The logic of the PVT is straight forward. If at any point in the official tallying process the results are manipulated in any way by anyone, then the PVT will expose this rigging as the official results will not be consistent with the PVT estimates. However, if the PVT estimates match the official results, then the contestants and the public should have greater confidence that the official results truly reflect the ballots cast at polling stations.
The 2014 presidential election has been challenging for our country and our democratic institutions. All elections test our collective resolve to democratic principles, but highly contested elections test them even more. Twelve candidates stood for president, but only one could win. Thus, from the outset eleven candidates and their supporters were destined to be disappointed with the results. The failings of the MEC have not made this disappointment any less bittersweet, but those failings did not affect the outcome of the presidential election.
If any candidate or political party feels aggrieved, they should follow the proper legal channels. All candidates and their supporters should continue to adhere to their obligations under the MEC’s Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates which stipulates that they “shall publicly declare their commitment to accept the results of any election or challenge the results in court under the Electoral Law, Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act, Local Government Elections Act and the Constitution, as may be amended.”
With the MEC’s announcement of the official presidential results on May 30, 2014, the Malawian people have spoken. The winner should be magnanimous in victory and reach out to their former competitors to work together to improve the lives of all Malawians. At the same time, those candidates who were unsuccessful should remember that these are not our last elections, but only another step in our democratic development. Malawians will go to the polls again in 2019 and candidates and parties will have another opportunity to convince voters their policies are best for the country.
MESN calls on all candidates, their supporters and the general public to show political maturity; to remain calm and to maintain the peace. MESN continues to observe the process and will issue additional statements as appropriate as well as a final report on the entire process for the 2014 Tripartite Elections.
MESN BOARD CHAIRPERSON
MESN observes elections based on the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations. In assessing the conduct of elections, MESN looks at compliance by all stakeholders with our Constitution, Electoral Act and related laws as well as regulations and procedures set out by the MEC. MESN also draws upon Malawi regional and international commitments contained in the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections; the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and related protocols.
The data for this report is based primarily on observations from MESN’s 800 Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) Observers who were deployed to a representative random sample of polling stations across all three regions, all 28 districts and all 193 parliamentary constituencies. While MESN deployed nearly 7,000 total observers to encourage participation, deter problems and enhance transparency, the role of MESN’s 800 PVT Observers was to provide rapid information on the conduct of the election that is truly representative of the entire country. It is also information from these observers that will be used to verify the accuracy of the official results as announced by the MEC.
Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) is a registered network of civil society organizations working on democratic governance and elections in Malawi. It is a registered member of Council for Non- Governmental Organizations (CONGOMA) in Malawi. It was formed in 2003 and has successfully participated in 2004 and 2009 Parliamentary and Presidential Elections in Malawi and currently has 27 members. It has also participated in election observer missions in the SADC regions and beyond. MESN is currently chair for SADC Electoral Support Network (SADC ESN) and founding member of the Global Network for Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM). It comprises of non-governmental, faith-based and community – based organizations. The network works closely with Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), other networks, development partners, political parties and eligible voters in ensuring that elections held in Malawi meet both local and international standards for acceptable democratic elections as a way of sustaining democratic governance in Malawi.