Malawi Election follow-up

See Opposition Protests in Malawi Threaten Mutharika’s Already Fragile Mandate, by Elliot Waldman, in World Politics Review, June 13, 2019.

My previous posts of May 25-27: #MalawiDecides2019: My inquiry to the Malawi Electoral Support Network, MESN, on PVT

(Noting “a hole in media reporting and public affairs announcements”:

Dear MESN,

Does your PVT receive funding from USAID (as per usual practice for these GNDEM PVT’s in Africa)? If so, what is the contractual arrangement for this funding? If not, how is the PVT funded? Thank you for a quick response given approaching deadlines!)

With Parliamanentary results released by Malawi Election Commission but final Presidential results announcement stayed, IFES works on Security and Conflict Prevention

Malawi Election Commission announces incumbent win in a ‘squeaker’–waiting on PVT

Malawi PVT released by MESN: Presidential results consistent with MEC official results, but top two candidates’ ranges overlap

I did receive a response from MESN on June 6 to my inquiry:

Thank you for your media inquiry about MESN and our observation of the
2019 Tripartite Elections. MESN receives funding from an array of
development funders. MESN’s funding for both long-term observation and
the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) comes from the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) through the Malawi Electoral
Integrity Program (MEIP) managed by the Consortium for Elections and
Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) . All questions about the
terms and conditions of funding agreement should be addressed to
USAID. I have attached for your information copies of our preliminary
and verification statements.

From our Embassy before the vote:

It might have been worthwhile for the Embassy to note in its May 23 Tweet that when “Both men were learning more about the system to validate the election results” the USAID Mission Director was visiting a USAID-funded program.

[You will notice if you read my previous posts I do not have any substantive criticism of how the PVT results were reported, rather I was inquiring about the funding prior to the reporting. I also noted in Zimbabwe that the reporting seemed to be carefully worded to avoid being misconstrued in the way that I have been concerned about in Kenya in 2013.]

Malawi PVT released by MESN – presidential results consistent with MEC official results, but top two candidates’ ranges overlap

Malawi PVT results from the Malawi Electoral Support Network  shows:

• Dr. Lazarus Chakwera (MCP) between 32.8% and 37.4%;

• Dr. Saulous Klaus Chilima (UTM) between 18.8% and 21.4%;

• Professor John Eugene Chisi (UP) between 0.3% and 0.5%;

• Mr. Reverend Hadwick Kaliya (Independent) between 0.2% and 0.4%;

• Mr. Peter Dominic Sinosi Driver Kuwani (MMD) between 0.3% and 0.5%;

• Mr. Atepele Austin Muluzi (UDF) between 4.3% and 5.7%; and

• Mutharika between 36.4% and 40.8%.

The PVT estimates, listed above, are consistent with the MEC’s official presidential results and therefore, the PVT can independently verify that the official results for the presidential election as announced by MEC reflect ballots cast and counted at polling streams. While PVT does not provide evidence that the presidential results have been manipulated, the PVT results data cannot definitively determine the order for the two leading candidates because of the overlap in the estimated ranges.

Read the whole release here.

Malawi Election Commission announces incumbent win in a “squeaker” – waiting on PVT

With the incumbent announced as winning with a narrower margin and a total of less than 39% of the vote, with turnout over 75%, there will be questions and frustrations.

Since the election is so close, the PVT is likely to show either of the top two candidates as a possible winner, although it could be pretty interesting if it shows something different. Since it has been done for days presumably it was ready for release some time ago.

Here is what was released for the last election in 2014.

With Parliamentary results released by Malawi Election Commission, but final Presidential results announcement stayed, IFES works on security and conflict prevention

Update: It is worth looking carefully at the MESN Detailed Preliminary Statement from the PVT. In general it suggests the voting was well conducted. I would flag the seven percent of the sampled polling stations where the results were not posted. See the USAID-funded research paper from Posner and Osofu at UCLA I linked below for why they identify the lack of posting of results as one of their indicators of potential fraud. I have never any legitimate excuse for not posting the results at the polling station and it certainly seems fundamental to me. I would note that seven percent is, to my recollection, a much better performance than what the Carter Center observers were seeming in their Preliminary Statement in Kenya in 2013, although that was not structured as a “PVT” sample as such.

——

Malawi’s election results being delayed after vote forgery claims” Quartz Africa

Under the USAID Malawi Electoral Integrity Program with CEPPS (the Consortium for Electoral Party and Process Strengthening)–the program under which NDI is providing “technical support” to the Parallel Vote Tabulation discussed in my last post–IFES is doing the work it has described in an April 2019 summary for the continent here:

Malawi Through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), IFES is supporting the 2019 tripartite elections under the “Malawi Electoral Integrity Program.” Particularly, IFES’ activities are focused on addressing electoral security through violence monitoring and incident reporting for more effective conflict mitigation and resolution, and by strengthening cooperation and information exchange between civil society, multiparty liaison committees and governmental electoral security actors, including the Malawi Election Commission (MEC). IFES will strengthen existing conflict mitigation and mediation platforms, support targeted interventions in areas identified as lhotspots, and raise public awareness about electoral violence, conflict mitigation and mediation tools available to the public. IFES will coordinate with the United Nations Development Programme on its “Malawi Electoral Cycle Support” program to build stronger linkages among the MEC and local stakeholders involved in conflict prevention.

CEPPS is a consortium among IRI, NDI and IFES which provides for a master funding arrangement between USAID and the group under which USAID then enters specific subsidiary agreements for individual programs such as the polling program in Kenya that funded Exit Polls through IRI for the 2005 and 2007 elections, or the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening Program for 2011-15 which was led by the coalition with separate workshares for IFES, NDI and IRI, with NDI supporting the PVT through the domestic observation group ELOG (set up as a permanent successor to 2007’s KEDOF domestic observation group at the recommendation of the 2008 Kreigler Commission report).

As an example of a different permutation, for the 2017 election, USAID solicited proposals for agreements involving one overall organization, with sub-agreements for other workshare. In that case the program was awarded to IFES, with the IRI and NDI work (including the PVT piece) under subagreements with IFES rather than directly with USAID as I understand it (this is based on the USAID solicitation and award announcements; the agreement is not published).

I have not watched Malawi closely and do not have any idea of the specific contractual arrangements of the MEIP program for this year.

With the presidential results finalization delayed, this will put everyone under significant pressure and may involve some hard judgment calls. We will all have to hope for the best as far as both the election and any negative situations regarding violence or insecurity.

Update: as a bonus, here is a 2015 paper from Daniel Posner and George Ofosu of UCLA, “Domestic Election Observers and Electoral Fraud in Malawi’s 2014 Election“.

Abstract

We present findings from a field experiment that estimates the causal effect of domestic election observers on election day malfeasance and downstream aggregation fraud in Malawi’s 2014 general elections. Our analyses leverage the random assignment of election observers to 1,049 polling stations located in a nationally representative sample of 90 constituencies. Since these polling stations already had observers assigned by other domestic monitoring organizations, our results speak to the marginal impact on electoral fraud of having an additional observer. We find that polling stations to which an additional observer was deployed had systematically lower rates of turnout and overvoting, and fewer votes for the presidential candidate who ultimately won the election—all results consistent with the deterrence of electoral fraud by the presence of the additional observer. We also find that the presence of the additional observer increases the likelihood that election results are not publicly posted, and that the non-posting of results is associated with an increased likelihood of aggregation fraud on behalf of the winning party, which we measure by comparing polling station-level election tallies with the official results reported by the Malawi Electoral Commission. We interpret this finding as suggesting that the presence of the additional observers may have displaced fraud from election day to the aggregation phase, and that the non-posting of the results may have been part of a conscious strategy to mask these efforts.

“The War for History” part eight: “The way not forward; lessons not learned” from Kenya’s failed 2007 election assistance

Here is the contract language requiring a Final Report from the Cooperative Agreement for the USAID – IRI Kenya polling program starting with the 2005 Referendum Exit Poll and culminating with the 2007 General Election Exit Poll:

FinalReportI finally learned last month from my March 2013 Freedom of Information Act request to USAID that the required Final Report was never filed.   Eventually getting to the truth of this involved a significant amount of “beating around the bush” and a previous 2009 FOIA request from the University of California, San Diego that should have disclosed all of the reporting–but to which USAID replied only after two years and then by producing only a copy of this Agreement itself without any of the rest of the contractual documents.

So ultimately there is no explanation in the reporting as to how the 2007 exit poll went from successful in a January 14, 2008 quarterly report from IRI to USAID, to “invalid” in IRI’s February 7, 2008 global press release, and then back to successful months later with public release of the results contradicting the Electoral Commission of Kenya.  Nor the impact of this discrepancy on the overall effectiveness of this 2+ year $570,000 democracy assistance polling program or the overall multimillion dollar U.S. support effort for the 2007 Kenya election.

Lessons from an accurate accounting of what really happened with U.S. assistance for the disastrously failed 2007 election should have been reckoned with in preparing for 2012-13. Unfortunately, in 2013 we had initial reporting of the USAID funded parallel vote tabulation with very limited transparency and seemingly ad hoc communications, and an initial USAID funded Election Observation report offering positive assurance for the reliability of the IEBC’s announced result, only to be quietly contradicted months later by the final Carter Center report.

The biggest problem in 2013 was the catastrophic failure of the Electronic Results Transmission system–the system that was established in Kenya’s election law to provide for the conveyance of the results from the polling station–the only place where the paper ballots are actually counted–to the IEBC.  Sadly, this was directly prefigured by what happened with the similar, if less ambitious, Electronic Results Transmission system–also funded by USAID through IFES and the UNDP–in 2007.  In 2007 the Electoral Commission of Kenya simply voted in December to shelve the computers and not use them, thus creating the opportunity for the Returning Officers to turn off their phones and drop out of the way.

In 2013, we had the spectacle of highly dubious procurement practices by the IEBC with a last minute attempt–or so it was presented–to roll out the technology, even though implementation was clearly not ready.  The system was then shut down by the IEBC, except for the visual graphic steadily broadcast for days showing one candidate with an “early” lead [simply meaning some votes were included and most weren’t] and hundreds of thousands of spoiled ballots that did not turn out to exist.

A source confirmed for me what we all saw–that the IEBC did not have a meaningful backup plan to handle custody and conveyance of the paper forms for the polling stations where the votes had been counted when the transmission system was shut down.

Prior to the election in 2007, the U.S. Ambassador was reporting the electronic transmission system under IFES along with the IRI exit poll as American assistance efforts to support a fair election.  Although my FOIA requests have not been directed at that issue specifically, the results transmission system appears to have dropped off the Ambassador’s list without explanation around the time it was shelved and so far as I remember this issue did not get scrutiny in the media at the time.

The Kreigler Commission report stressed the crucial nature of results transmission and much was made of this in drafting of the new election laws and the talk of preparations and assistance for 2013, but the ECK refused to produce the minutes of its action shelving the 2007 system (or any of its other minutes) and the Commission reported on to President Kibaki and then the Kenyan public without actual answers about what happened in 2007.

See “Didn’t we learn from the disaster in 2007? Kenya does not need to be anyone’s model anything; it needs truth in its election”

Ironies in Open Government: Was the Kenya PVT a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” or “Private Vote Tabulation”?

Kenya Pre-election Poll

So now we have results of both a “Parallel Vote Tabulation” and an Exit Poll for the March 4, 2013 Kenyan election.

The irony here is that the Exit Poll was privately funded, yet we have, courtesy of the video of the initial university presentation by the researchers Dr. Clark Gibson, Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and Dr. James Long, visiting scholar at Harvard and appointed as Asst. Professor at the University of Washington, quite a bit more detail about the Exit Poll data than we do about the PVT.  The PVT, however, was funded at least in substantial part, apparently, by yours truly and the rest of the American taxpayers through USAID through NDI. (This is the best information available to me–please correct me if I am wrong.)

I mean no disrespect to any of the people involved at NDI or ELOG–or at USAID for that matter.  I am sure everyone did their best on the PVT.  But when do we see the details instead of just a conclusion?  

After all the controversy about the delay in the release of the USAID-funded IRI Exit Poll in 2007-08, I am just very much surprised that everyone involved this time did not chose to try to get in front of any problems and controversies by being more transparent.

I do not want to weigh in to any of the back and forth as to “which is better” between an Exit Poll and a PVT–in fairness they have their relative strengths and weaknesses–it is best to have both.  So let’s get the data out on the table for study and see what we can learn.

Was Kenya’s “Election Observation Group” or ELOG intended to be truly independent of IEBC? Or was it to “build confidence”? [Update 3-30 Further on “Overselling” ELOG and ELOG’s use by Counsel for the Gov’t in Court]

By appearances, ELOG certainly looks more like part of the effort to “build confidence” in the IEBC (to “promote peace”) rather than an independent watchdog.

Which would explain the problem noted in my previous post that their Parallel Vote Tabulation results by their own numbers indicate that most likely there should be a runoff between Kenyatta and Odinga but they announced that their results “confirm” the IEBC which found otherwise.  It would also explain why they have announced “conclusions” in support of the IEBC but not released their data or even their methodology.  Ironically, USAID, which supported the Parallel Vote Tabulation, also spent a lot of money over a period of years promoting greater sophistication in the Kenyan media in expecting transparency regarding polling methodology.  Today, in Kenya, the media would not ordinarily publish polling results with the lack of transparency that has accompanied ELOG’s PVT, which is based on some sort of an undisclosed “sampling” methodology akin to that used in other polling.

“Must reads” follow:

Kenya’s Election Observation Group (ELOG) announces its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) program as monitoring tool. (Daily Nation, Feb. 18, 2013)

“This (information) will be important to help remove any uncertainties by providing validation to the results given by the IEBC,” he added. . . .

“PVT will measure the votes cast and indicate whether the data should be trusted, based on information about voting and counting of the votes,” said Elog Chairman Kennedy Masime.

“This information will be specific and can be actionable for improving the process next time” he added.

But Elog was quick to warn that it would not be announcing results, a task only IEBC is mandated to perform.

While they will be tabulating results from the polling stations, the Observers said they would be in constant consultation with the Commission before releasing their verdict.

“We foresee a situation where if the elections are well managed, then there will be no fundamental differences with IEBC. But in the event that there is, then we would consult with the Commission,” Elog said in a joint statement.

USAID/Kenya–Success Stories: “Giving Fresh Credibility to Kenya’s Electoral System” (Feb. 8, 2013)

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission registered 14.3 million voters using the biometric voter registration technology system. Biometric data captured during the registration is  is being  linked with electronic voter identifiers (electronic poll books)  while text data is being used  for real time electronic result transmission and display systems. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) invested over $ 6 million USD in the two systems, through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). According to analyses, two of the most significant factors attributed to the failure of the 2007 election were the inability of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to compile a credible voter register, and the lack of an efficient results reporting system.

USAID has partnered with Civil Society Organizations  to ensure the effective use of the biometric voter registration technology in the upcoming 2013 presidential elections, to prevent fraud and reduce the likelihood of violence. . . .

Too bad the voter register was not finalized and published as required by law and the technology tools never fully designed and for the most part not implemented “on the ground” in the actual election.  A robust independent monitoring organization would, one would think, have more to say about that but, if these efforts were already a “success story” before the voting for bringing “fresh credibility” it becomes awkward . . .

USAID/Kenya–Success Stories: Parallel Vote Tabulation Restores Confidence in Kenyan Voters (Dec. 14, 2010):

The PVT – as acknowledged by the IIEC Chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan – was crucial in verifying the legitimacy of the referendum process as a whole and in restoring public confidence in the electoral process in Kenya.

Again, the overriding goal, achieving “success story” status, is to give the Kenyan public “confidence”.

 UPDATE:

An example of how the PVT has been oversold is a quote from the CapitalFM story covering the ELOG announcement on Saturday March 9 under the headline “Yes, Uhuru won–parallel vote tally shows”:  
 

“Thus the PVT can confidently verify that the official results for each candidate are accurate,” the group’s chairman, Kennedy Masime, said on Saturday afternoon.”

 
This is the basic point–the PVT result of 49.7 cannot “confidently verify” that Uhuru got 50%+1 at all.
 
Such statements then got translated further into statements like this from Ken Opalo in an interview in The Atlantic:

I don’t think the system meltdown affected the eventual result – a Parallel Vote Tabulation done by Elections Observation Group confirmed IEBC’s findings – but it raised concerns over IEBC’s vulnerability to manipulation. (emphasis added)

If ELOG does not wish to be a party to this, they can dial it back and have had more than two three weeks to do so; and more than two three weeks to release the details of their methodology and how it was executed as reputable polling firms are expected to do these days in Kenya.
Ultimately, ELOG’s initial statement was cited by respondents in the Supreme Court as evidence to uphold the IEBC’s decision to avoid a runoff even though ELOG had declined to be transparent and neutral by withholding its methodology and data.  Given the nature of the proceedings, there was no time in Court for either AfriCOG or CORD to probe or rebut the purported evidence from the Goverment.

To avoid confusion about the Kenyan ELOG “Parallel Vote Tabulation” . . .

Quote

Freeandfair Kenya on March 11, 2013 at 11:14 am said:

The most publicly available check on the elections — the Parallel Vote Tabulation done by ELOG did everyone a disservice by saying their results were “consistent” with the IEBC’s. This makes it sound as if it supported the IEBC’s count. It does nothing of the kind. See http://www.ndi.org/files/Kenya-ELOG-PVT-statement-030913.pdf. Not only do they find that Uhuru received 49.7% of the vote, they have a margin of error of 2.7%. This means that MOST of their prediction is for a RUNOFF. A tragic, incorrect, and unprofessional use of terms.

This was a comment in response to my post “Overall Observation on the Observations”–this is important and apparently there has been some confusion.