Malawi Electoral Commission Chairman, Justice Maxon Mbendera Sc is currently in Zambia at a workshop organized by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) to share experiences from Situation Room Project that was run by Malawi Election Information Centre for the 2014 Tripartite Elections.
The Election Situation Room (ESR) is an initiative that provides a platform where Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) collaborate on elections observation, monitoring, rapid response and proactive advocacy.
This form of collaboration makes efficient use of resources and enhances CSO members’ capabilities to ensure a transparent, fair and peaceful tripartite election.
OSISA supported CSOs in Malawi to implement this project and is planning the same for the Zambian elections which are coming on August 11, 2016.
Commenting on the invitation to present the Malawi case on the Situation Room project, Justice Mbendera SC said it symbolized the growing trust that electoral bodies in the SADC had in the Malawi Electoral Commission in the management of elections.
“The invitation to share Malawi’s experience comes at a very crucial moment as we reach the tail end of collating key areas that need to be reformed in preparation of our next elections.
“This process was done with stakeholders drawn from government, civil society and development partners. The collaboration enriched the product and has enhanced the ownership of the findings we will be tabling for finalization,” he said.
He added: “I am optimistic that there are a number of things to share with them and also to learn from them. The Election Situation Room in Malawi had three critical components, namely, citizen reporting the whole electoral cycle, voter verification and collection of data on Election Day. All these three initiatives were anchored on a strong ICT platform that enabled collection and verification of data”.
Justice Mbendera said Malawi will always be glad to have chosen to go with the Situation Room Innovation during the May 2014 Tripartite Elections.
“We started something that has opened the space for more active citizenship in elections; something that allows us to tap into various expertise in the conduct of elections; something that is responsive to our changing times without compromising the integrity of democratic processes; and finally, something that inspires confidence,” he said.
He also tipped the delegates that an election situation room works effectively if all key stakeholders come together in a common spirit of cooperation as opposed to fault-finding.
“The platform does not take away your distinctive roles and function of various actors but ensures that you leverage on each other’s strength. The situation room as it collects and collates information; its primary function is to assist in fixing the problems.
“So, it is crucial and important to secure buy in and collaboration with the EMB as the legally mandated electoral management body. The situation room cannot and must not detract from the electoral commission’s constitutional and legal mandate,” he explained.
The workshop will take place from the 11th to 14th of February, 2016 and has drawn participation from Zambia Electoral Commission and civil society organizations.
Zambia last went to the poll on January 20, 2015 to elect a state president following the death of the incumbent then, Michael Chilufya Sata on October 28, 2014.
The Malawi Electoral Commission will also be represented by Deputy Chief Elections Officer (operations), Mr Harris Potani and Director of ICT, Mr Muhabi Chisi.