Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you for coming to this Commonwealth Observer Group briefing.
At the invitation of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma constituted an Observer Group for the country’s tripartite elections scheduled for 20 May 2014.
I am delighted to lead this Group and for us to be in Malawi at this critical time when the people go out to exercise their fundamental right to chose their leaders through the ballot box.
The Group is drawn from across the regions of the Commonwealth—from Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific, Europe and Asia. It includes a range of expertise from political, electoral, legal, youth and media fields.
These are very important elections as Malawi continues to consolidate its democratic process. Our presence here is a demonstration of the Commonwealth’s commitment to work with member states to strengthen and deepen democracy.
The Group is charged with observing and evaluating the pre-election period, polling day itself, as well as the post-election period. It is our task as observers to consider all factors relating to the credibility of the electoral process as a whole. We will assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards to which Malawi has committed itself, including both the Malawian constitutional and legislative framework and relevant Commonwealth and international commitments. In conducting our duties and undertaking our assessment, we will be objective, impartial and independent. The Group's assessment will be its own, and not that of any member country of the Commonwealth.
Since we arrived on 14 May, we have spent the past few days meeting with relevant stakeholders including the Electoral Commission, civil society and representatives of media institutions. We will be meeting representatives of political parties, independent institutions and other partners.
Our general sense is that there seems to be a positive mood and people are looking forward to going out to cast their vote next week. It is the duty of all stakeholders to ensure that this positive mood is carried through to the end of the process.
Members of the Group will deploy to various parts of the country on 18 May to assess the environment ahead of polling day as well as the voting and counting processes on Election Day itself.
An Interim Statement will be published soon after the elections. We will keep you posted on when this will be.
It is important that all stakeholders in the electoral process play their rightful roles to ensure that the wishes of the people of Malawi to chose those who will lead them is done in a free, peaceful and credible manner.
The attention of the region, Africa, the Commonwealth is on Malawi. You are in the spotlight. We look up to Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa, to continue doing all of us proud.
Blantyre, Malawi, 16 May 2014