Voting spilled over into a second day in Malawian elections. Nyasa Times editor told DW, he never thought that the day would come, when Malawians could not predict who would be their next president.
The military had to step in on Tuesday (21.05.2014) as people took to the streets to protest the delays at the polling stations. Four thousand polling stations were affected by the late arrival of ballot papers. While the election bureau describe the situation as embarassing, they denied any allegations of election rigging. DW spoke to Edgar Chibaka, editor of the UK based online paper Nyasa Times.
DW: With voting underway in Malawi, it appears four contenders out of the 12 presidential candidates are likely to carry the day. These are: President Joyce Banda, Atupele Muluzi, Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera. These are the most closely contested elections since the end of one party state two decades ago. How would you describe the conduct of the elections?
Edgar Chibaka: Like any country in Africa, there will always be a few problems. Malawi has not been an exception. What we are seeing is that in at least 95 percent of all the polling stations, people are voting without any problems. We have to give the Malawian electoral Commission credit for that. Because our infrastructure in our country does not come anywhere near where one could anticipate that the logistics would get us as close as 95 percent of successful polling.
You reported that voting has been extended in some polling stations. Now, does this raise the risk of vote rigging?
There were very little opportunities for rigging to take place. What has caused the extension are logistical problems. We know that there are over seven million people casting their votes. In some areas the voting materials did not arrive on time. People are suppose to vote within the twelve hour period so if the polling centers open three hours later, it is only advisable that the voting time should be extended.
Joyce Banda´s chose to target the rural voters, how popular does this leave her in cities like Lilongwe or Blantyre?
The cities and the urban centers are always on the side of the opposition. Joyce Banda knew that concentrating on the cities or the urban areas would have been a waste of time. She had to go to the rural areas, where she knew that the majority of voters come from. In the cities you have supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Joyce Banda's People's Party (PP), the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). So no single party that can claim that they are the dominant force in these major cities. So Banda decided to concentrate on the rural areas. That is where she has been distributing maize to those who do not have maize, distributing cows to the families and people have actually appreciated that there is somebody who seemed to care for their very basic needs.
Has Malawi gained in political maturity over the years, since the introduction of multi- party politics.
The maturity is there. We have actually seen it [during the voting]. Generally, people were very patient and they have really demonstrated that Malawi is a peace-loving country. Even during the campaign period itself, tensions were rising but people knew how to withdraw themselves from the excitement that was being created. We never thought that one day we will be in a situation where we cannot actually tell who is going to be our next president.
Edgar Chibaka is the editor and founder of the UK based online newspaper on Malawi, Nyasa Times.
Interview: Isaac Mugabi