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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04LILONGWE523 2004-06-15 13:27:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

SADC TEAM ALONE IN PRAISING MALAWI'S ELECTIONS

Tags:   PGOV PREL MI 
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					  UNCLAS LILONGWE 000523 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/14/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL MI
SUBJECT: SADC TEAM ALONE IN PRAISING MALAWI'S ELECTIONS

REF: LILONGWE 445

SUMMARY
-------


1. (U) The SADC Election Observer Team (SEOT) stood alone in
its failure to find fault with Malawi's May 20 elections, and
unlike all other observer missions deemed the elections as
"free and fair and credible" according to a preliminary
statement. African Union (AU), Commonwealth, European Union
(EU), Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), and SADC
Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) observers pointed out
deficiencies in the electoral process and distanced
themselves from public declarations of "free and fair"
elections.

SADC - A TALE OF TWO OBSERVER MISSIONS


--------------------------




2. (U) Two missions from SADC were in Malawi to observe
elections: SADC-PF and the SADC Election Observer Team
(SEOT), organized by the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and
Security Cooperation. In an official statement, the
Parliamentary Forum pointed out a number of shortcomings, in
particular the failure of state-controlled media to allow
equitable access for opposition parties. The Malawi
Electoral Commission (MEC) was, according to SADC-PF,
overstretched, and the statement included a long list of
recommended improvements. Notably, the team declined to
comment on the level of freedom, fairness, and credibility of
Malawi's elections.



3. (U) SEOT, however, praised the election. SEOT's
statement, issued on May 21 (note: two days before official
results were announced) deemed the voting process "free and
fair and credible in terms of transparency and accepted
electoral practices" and praised the MEC's overall management
of the elections. It urged stakeholders to accept the (then
still unannounced) final results, calling them a "true
reflection of the wishes of the people of Malawi, committed
to further consolidation of peace, stability, freedom and
democracy in this sister country and full member of the SADC."

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHERS?


--------------------------




4. (U) Statements from other observer missions, including
the AU, EU, Commonwealth, and EISA were uniformly critical in
their analysis of the elections. While all missions noted
that the elections were peaceful, they also made pointed
remarks about unfair media coverage, irregularities in the
voters' roll, use of state resources by the ruling party, and
various other issues (reftel). The AU statement referred to
the language during the campaign as "intimidating,
provocative and insulting" and deemed the practice of
handouts disturbing. (note: Candidates, particularly those in
the ruling party, commonly distributed cash and food at
political rallies.) The EISA statement blasted the media's
treatment of the campaigns as unbalanced and notes that the
MEC is widely perceived as partisan. The EU statement went
further in such criticism, citing specific examples of media
and MEC bias, while the Commonwealth couched its praise for
the polling staff by pointing out that there were "serious
inadequacies in the registration process" and "grave concern"
about the "misuse of the advantages of incumbency."

COMMENT


--------------------------




5. (SBU) Of all the international and diplomatic observer
missions, only the SADC Election Observer Team found no
substantial fault with Malawi's elections, bringing into
question SADC's objectivity in its peer review of member
states. In praising Malawi's dubious performance, the team
demonstrated SADC's unfortunate proclivity to close ranks
behind its members no matter what the issue and what the
truth.
DOUGHERTY