Chilima refuses to meet EU election observers

UTM Party president  Saulos Chilima has refused to meet a European Union (EU) Election Observer Mission (EOM) and asked the team to delay presentation of its final report on the disputed May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.

The team is expected to issue a statement upon arrival in the country, according to officials from the EU Mission in Lilongwe. But the embassy was tongue-tied on details of the mission.

The team is scheduled to meet the main protagonists in the disputed presidential elections, notably declared winner President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as well as Chilima and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) counterpart Lazarus Chakwera who are challenging the results in court over alleged irregularities.

But Chilima, in a letter to the EU Malawi office dated January 7 2020, said the report is sub judicial as the presential elections dispute is awaiting judgement.

He said: “We are waiting for judgement [in the Constitutional Court]. The EU should respect the courts and wait for the judgement. We have informed the EU in writing that we will not be attending the meeting.”

In a separate interview, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said his party has received an invitation to attend the meeting and will honour it. However, he said MCP has reservations with the timing of the meeting.

“They have indicated they would like to meet Dr Chakwera. They say they would like to present the findings. On the timing, they might be working according to their calendar, but if we were asked on what could be the right time to present the report, we would have said before the elections case,” he said.

In a telephone interview yesterday, EU Deputy Head of Mission Aurelie Valtat, who is also head of the political and media office, while confirming the arrival of the team deferred questions on the report and other activities.

She was further quick to say the arrival of the mission was normal and routine.

UTM leader Saulos Chilima

“That’s a standard return mission and we will not make a statement until they are here. This is not unique to Malawi,,” said Valtat.

The EU, Commonwealth, Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and other foreign observer missions largely stated in the aftermath of the disputed elections that the country’s sixth post-independence general elections were free, fair and credible.

However, the international observers’ preliminary vote of onfidence has received subsequent strong criticism from the opposition parties and civil society who described it as a rushed and rehearsed conclusion.

“The process was largely well organised by the Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] and voting on election day was well-managed. But despite a generally peaceful campaign, the pre-election period was marked also by tensions and an unlevel playing field,” said Miroslav Poche, chief observer of the EU EOM said in a preliminary statement issued on May 23 2019.

The EU EOM had 83 observers at 342 polling stations across 120 of the country’s 193 parliamentary constituencies in 27 of the 28 districts during the elections. Mutharika has repeatedly quoted observers as having declared the electoral process credible, but Chilima and Chakwera are challenging the presidential election results in court over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.