This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS LILONGWE 000523
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/14/2014 TAGS: PGOV PREL MI SUBJECT: SADC TEAM ALONE IN PRAISING MALAWI'S ELECTIONS
REF: LILONGWE 445
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."
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