EU deploys election monitors to Malawi

The European Union is sending 55 observers to monitor Malawi’s May 19 general election, in which President Bingu Wa Mutharik is vying for a new term in office, officials in Brussels said on Friday.

The EU’s Election Observation Mission to Malawi will consist of 28 long-term observers, who are already monitoring the election’s preparations, and 20 short-term observers.

Their role will be to “observe voting, counting and the tabulation of results”, the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, the European Commission, said in a statement.

The monitors will be flanked by six experts and the mission’s chief observer, Luisa Morgantini, an Italian member of the European Parliament.

“The presidential and legislative elections in Malawi on May 19 are crucial for the consolidation of the democratisation process in the country.

“Therefore it is essential that these elections are conducted in a credible and transparent manner, in accordance with international and regional standards,” said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external affairs commissioner.

The election monitoring mission will cost €2,8-million, with the funds taken from the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).

The May 19 contest sees President Mutharika run against an alliance of the country’s two biggest opposition parties—the United Democratic Front (UDF) of former president Bakili Muluzi and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

The alliance was forged after Muluzi, who served two consecutive terms as president, from 1994 to 2004, failed to introduce the constitutional changes that would have allowed him to run for a third term.

The EU frequently deploys election monitors to the world’s hot spots and is currently considering whether to send a similar mission to Afghanistan, where presidential elections are to be held in August.

The mission in Malawi will stay in the country until June 13 in order to assess the post-election period, officials in Brussels said.—Sapa-dpa

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