A Perspective by Jimmy Namangale, Chancellor College

 

THE BACK STORY

My private WhatsApp communication, that went viral, was never intended for public consumption

Last time, my private WhatsApp communication in which I had done an informal analysis of IPOR-based results with reference to voter registration and the data obtained from social WhatsApp group went viral. What drew my attention was the differences in the number of registered voters between the Central and Southern Regions. It turned out that the data had a wrong sum of the number of registered voters for the Centre.

Some overzealous friends whom I had privately shared my analysis shared it out to others.

I woke up in the morning only to be greeted with numerous communications all over. When the private WhatsApp message reached Malawi-Facts, they called me requesting permission to publish and widely share my analysis, including in mainstream media.

My private views went viral, and even after I withdrew consent – it was too late

Knowing that the article was already circulating, I just consented but that same day, on reflection, I changed my mind. I tried communicating to various media houses like MBC not to proceed any more, but by then they had already aired it.

I also forgot about telling Malawi-Facts and in the early hours of the following morning, I contacted them informing them of my intention to reverse my decision. They also informed me that it was already in the papers in Malawi that day. I told them that it was fine as I delayed to inform them myself.

 

THE  BACKLASH

I received backlash due to Fake News; but now I am setting the record straight

On further reflection, I think probably the delay did some good, since a lot of fake news came out, sort of misrepresenting me and going as far as saying I was discrediting the IPOR report.

This sparked anger, especially among those who were contented with the political conclusions of the IPOR’s report. Some wrote unpleasant messages, with some reactions leaned towards categorizing me as an agent of a deliberate political ploy. Some are still at pains continuing with this.

I appreciate that in a democracy people should agree to disagree on issues but not hate each other and keep operating within the limits of the law. Certainly, my analysis with the wrong Centre Region data advanced an argument that the election results were more likely to favour the DDP/UDF side. You may recall that I made numerous assumptions which could be true or false and some people are already challenging my assumptions which I am still convinced they make sense. I will throw more enlightenment in this analysis.

However I erred; the public was not the target audience and no malice was intended

I feel I owe Malawians an apology but everyone ought to also understand that it was a private message in the first place not meant for public consumption and that there was no deliberate intention to misinform anyone.

I also know I owe many Malawians an obligation to say, what is the likely picture now with more accurate MEC data in relation to findings of the IPOR report? I thus decided to do a different analysis altogether using more accurate data as opposed to using data from social networks. I am doing this mainly also knowing that some people have just jumped on the wrong total as a weapon to trash everything in my previous analysis. Last time, I triangulated IPOR report with annulled 2019 election presidential results and data from CSOs, which in my opinion provide adequate information for this alternative debate.

 

HERE ARE MY CONSIDERED REFLECTIONS 

For the avoidance of doubt, here is the argument I advance regarding the North

Let us look at MCP and UTM votes in the North in the annulled 2019 elections:

MCP: 31.6% and UTM: 47.2% giving us a total of 78.8% (MCP/UTM) which is around 79%.

The majority of the remaining votes 19.8% all went to DPP and UDF as the rest were null and void with the third candidate almost getting nothing. The recent IPOR survey also found that MCP/UTM alliance got 79% on the opinion poll in the North.

My argument has been, the MCP/UTM support appearing in the IPOR report is a more realistic representation of actual support. The fact that in the IPOR report in the North there was a good chunk of undecided voters, I postulated that these are the DPP/UDF. Why is this good number not responding to the survey on the president of their choice when in fact the MCP/UTM counterparts are responding? My argument has been that it is the political environment then that was interacting with human behavioural conscious.

What else can we learn from the above consistency between the annulled elections results and the IPOR report in the North? The UTM support in the North is sticking or more passionate to MCP/UTM coalition.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, here is the argument I advance regarding the South

Now, let us move to the Southern Region. In the annulled elections, MCP and UTM had the following following:

MCP: 7.7% and UTM: 13.6% giving a total of 21.3% say around 21%.

When we go to the IPOR report we see that MCP/UTM has 20%, which is close to 21.3%. Again I am pushing the same argument that in the IPOR, the more realistic figures to work with are really the MCP and UTM. In the South almost all the rest of the votes in the 2019 elections went to

DPP: 68.1% and UDF: 9.3% totaling to 77.4%.

But what do we see in the IPOR report? A good chunk of southerners not willing to give out a president of their choice. Since the MCP/UTM results are consistent, I have advanced an argument that most of the people who were shying out are DPP and UDF supporters with my suggestion that these are doing so due to the political environment then where the public had created an environment that someone who goes for DPP is sort of someone who is out of their minds. What else can we learn from this? During the 2019 elections UTM in the South got most of its votes from Blantyre City and Zomba City while MCP’s votes were not that good in these cities. So one can claim that the small decline of 1.3% is most likely due to UTM support eroding but slowly as well as the argument I have been advancing that MCP supporters are likely to vote MCP presidential candidate again. So the decline is due to UTM not MCP.

What else can one learn from the results in the North and South? The annulled 2019 elections results from presidential figures look genuine from observing this consistency with the IPOR results.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, here is the argument I advance regarding the Centre

Let us move to the Central region and have some historical background. Before the 2019 elections, in the 2014 elections, DPP and UTM presidential candidates stood as president and running mate, respectively, and Ntcheu went for DPP. Ntcheu, the home of UTM president, in its history until before UTM contesting for presidency, it had been UDF at the beginning of multiparty and later DPP when DPP was formed. In 2014, however, the whole of Ntcheu went DPP, though small but noticeable proportion in the Central Region went to also DPP just trailing behind MCP. Yet, in 2019 when UTM president stood as presidential candidate, DPP’s support got reduced considerably in Ntcheu and the whole Central Region, while MCP’s was almost stable slightly lower but still on the lead in the region. UTM candidate came second.

This then allows one to argue that most DDP support in the Central Regions shifted from DPP to UTM in 2019 and that a small chunk moved from MCP to UTM. Let us look at the performance of MCP/UDF in the Centre in the 2019 annulled elections,

MCP: 65.2% and UTM: 17.6% totaling MCP/UTM: 82.8%.

That is, ordinarily, one would expect IPOR results to also be close to this 82.8%. However, in the IPOR, the MCP/UTM coalition is only 72%, meaning it is 10% lower than the expected. What could be the explanation?

One may argue that one can not envisage considerable MCP support changing hearts not to vote for MCP this time. Hence, I contend that this 10% is most likely to be dominated by the old-DPP supporters who had gone from DPP to UTM in 2019.

My argument is further extended like this. These DPP supporters who are not for the MCP have likely never been for MCP in the past and that they are disappointed with the UTM candidate move to side with MCP. Thus by implication, if this 10% UTM breakaway support is to vote, it is likely to vote for DPP/UDF.

Again the majority of the votes of undecided voters are the ones I am attributing to be likely the DPP/UDF support.

 

For the avoidance of doubt, here are the conclusions I draw based on the foregoing

In summary, the IPOR results triangulated with other information reveal that the most realistic in the report are the results for MCP/UTM support.

Had Malawi gone for voting on 3rd June 2020, which was at the beginning of the month, when the IPOR study ended, MCP/UTM alliance will have got:

North:   79%

Centre: 72%

South: 20%

In a standard opinion poll, if someone is undecided, a normal logic will be that one does not know what party he/he is likely to vote for. However, my analysis is different, because I am triangulating with other existing data, information and history.

Hence, in our Malawi context one, to large degree objectively can deduce that these undecided voters are for DPP/UDF whether one is the North, Central or in the South. Only that they are shying away to air their choice in the IPOR study.

Let us look at registration. The new MEC figures for registered voters are:

North:     929,974

Centre: 2,920,423

South:   3,009,173

Total:   6,858,570

These translate into 13.56% in the North, 42.57% in the Centre and 43.87% for the South. IPOR’s target was originally to have 1,200 as the sample size. If one was to use proportional allocation as to how many people should be interviewed from each of the three regions, from the 1,200, using these percentages one gets

North:   163 interviewees

Centre: 511 interviewees

South:  526 interviewees

The results got from these 1,200 interviewees would be the ones analysts would used to project or make inferred decisions on the whole population of 6,588,570 registers voters. Roughly, these 1200 shall represent the views of these 6.9 million voters. Or in another way,

1 interviewee represents 5,716 voters.

The IPOR study used 14% for North, 43% for Central and 43% for the South. That is the South and the Centre had same weighting. This approximately close proportional allocation gives us;

North:   168 interviewees which increases the required with 3 more people

Centre: 516 interviewees which increases the required with 5 more people

South:   516 interviewees which reduces the required by 10 people

 

For the avoidance of doubt, here are some of the critical arguments that arise

On my argument that since the South had more people than the rest, what IPOR’s quick rounding off did as well as sampling equal people from the Centre and South basically was like removing 10 representatives off, from the South, not to participate while for the other regions we were bringing in more people to air their views.

We are dealing with a big number of 6.9 million people as an effective representation and recall that 1 interviewee represents over 5,500. The South may have been under-represented.

For instance, if the poll results are different between regions, would one attribute the difference in the real opinion lead or that it is merely that you chose more representation from one region to air their views and less from the other? We will come back to this later in this analysis. That said, the 14%, 43% and 43% for the North, Centre and South is involving 3, 5, and 10 people out of 1,200 in the survey. However, one thing to notice is like making the South and the Centre have differences of 15 people as one is being added and the other is being subtracted.

Since in the IPOR report the North and Centre were for MCP/UTM, the combined sample in these two regions would have had effectively 18 more interviewees added on their side relative to the South.

The above argument causes some challenges in the way one should calculate the percentage of support of a candidate. Surely straight addition of those that have a preference of each candidate favours the block that has relatively more people to be asked in their own stronghold and disadvantages those that have relatively fewer people to be asked in their own stronghold.

My argument then is that the fairer way to calculate the opinion rate is then to use the percentage support by region and alliance separately. Afterwards, add up all projected number of votes for each coalition for all the regions and find their national proportions.

We cannot just count the number of people in the whole sample that support a candidate and divide by the total sample size, as the counts will be dominated by those in the relative majority and the problem comes in when we have the Malawi situation where supporting a MCP or DPP candidate heavily depends on the region of origin.

From the above argument, in the North, MCP/UTM gets 79% of the voters and DPP/UDF gets the 21% of rest of registered voters in the North. The other third candidate shall be assumed to unlikely get a figure very close to 1%, using information from 2019 or IPOR. He can be left aside as of now.

This gives projected votes, assuming every registered voter is still there and turns up on election day;

Northern Region: MCP/UTM: 734,679

Northern Region: DPP/UDF:   195,295.

Likewise. for the Centre Region, 72% for MCP/UTM and 28% for DDP/UDF gives;

Central Region: MCP/UTM: 2,102,705

Central Region: DPP/UDF:       817,718.

Finally, for the Southern Region, 20% for MCP/UTM and 80% for DPP/UDF gives;

Southern Region: MCP/UTM:     601,835

Sothern Region:   DPP/UDF:    2,407,338.

 

Overall, from the IPOR study results, the total projected number of votes are

MCP/UTM: 3,439,219 which is roughly 50.137%

DPP/UDF:   3,418,351 which is roughly 49.862%

Difference (MCP minus DPP): 18,867 votes

This sort of analysis elucidates that IPOR’s reported MCP/UTM support of 51% was on a higher side due to the equal samples for the Centre and the South.

As I said in my previous analysis with one wrong data value, that it also illuminates us that the competition may be too close to call as to who will win, according to this re-analysis and the justified assumptions.

Thus, the argument I am furthering is that, according to the results I have seen in the IPOR report, I am of the view that one can not claim that MCP/UTM will win outright without qualifying it and neither can one claim DDP/UDF will make it without qualifying it. Why am I saying so?

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Firstly, I am looking at it this way. Using the 2019 annulled elections Chakwera had around 35.41% and Chilima 20.24% meaning the MCP/UTM coalition had a potential 55.65% head start, while on the other hand Mutharika had 38.57% and Muluzi 4.67% coming to 43.24%.

Note that the reported results had also null and void votes assigned a percent, thus the candidates may not necessarily add to 100%. With the two-horse race anticipation, adjusting the two alliances to be out of 100%, then MCP started with 56.7% and DPP with 43.3%, at the beginning.

Here is one argument, the 56.7% of MCP/UTM has continuously been eaten up to three weeks prior to elections when it stood at 50.137% with a lead of about only about 19,000 votes. One argument is that it is DPP that has been gaining in this campaign.

Now, did the gain stop three weeks ago or it is still continuing up to the voting day? My take is that it must be dynamic and it may not likely still be where it was previously three weeks.

Now the 19,000 is a very small margin and this was arrived at on assumption that all the 6.9 million voters shall turn up. We know others will not vote, others moved away and others died and If say only 90% turns up, then the 18,867 gap, as of 3rd June 2020 would be 90% of 18,867, is just around 16,980. Or has it disappeared in the three weeks? Or has the MCP/UTM reversed it?

Recall that 1 interviewee represents around 5,700 voters. This 18,867 or 16,980 lead, would it not be due to over-representation of the North and the Centre which just needed at least 4 interviewees added there to display this gain? Is it really MCP/UTM leading by 0.137% or could it be just due to the study design challenge? I do not have answers.

What about the third candidate whom I have assumed to be almost nonexistent? Can he influence the final verdict? If we were to have, say 80% turnout, and the third candidate, say, got only 0.5%, which is around 27,438 votes, this could potentially robe a leading candidate an opportunity to reach the 50+1.

That is my contribution to the debate from the analysis I made last time with erroneous data. Last time, it was so clear.

However, now with more accurate data and trying to circumnavigate the non-equal sampling issue, if it goes according to this analysis, I can imagine an important resource that every Malawian has, namely time, being misdirected to following up courtroom debates because any small lead now can easily entice a loser to challenge the results by irregularities since irregularities are inevitable in any election.

Should we say no one will not win outright by a considerable margin? No, it is possible to have a clear winner. If at all there is any wisdom in this analysis, it is that, it is teaching us that there is a high chance that it can be a very tight race and that on 3rd June, perhaps MCP/UTM continued to lose its ground and 19,000 deficit can easily be overturned in 3 weeks.

However, if the last MCP/UTM campaigns like the UTM Blantyre City final campaign managed to reclaim some of the 1.3% lost support, then the trend may have reversed back to MCP/UTM. This is what I can say is the genuine picture one can extrapolate from the IPOR report.

 

Having shown this possible scenario, so what?

This analysis silently assumed that the turnout rates of voters were uniform all over the country and that the voters whom I claimed to have been shying out in the IPOR survey, now due the fact that the voting was secret, they also were free to choose a presidential candidate of their preferred choice. I also carried heavily on my shoulders the IPOR’s MCP/UTM figures as almost the gospel truth as of 3rd June 2020.

One reason behind this reliance was the good matching with the annulled results and observing that in-between annulled results and IPOR study, the only thing that occurred that could influence a change of heart of voters was the regrouping of the candidates. Should the actual results emerge very different, not matching this analysis, I believe that everything that I was also carrying on my shoulders including many of my assumptions may follow me to the floor, or else, the huge discrepancy shall be due to the huge shifts that happened between 3rd June 2020 to 23rd June 2020.

I would like to leave it upon the reader, especially those who may not be sober when the heat of the announcements start, to read this with a sober mind now before the winds start blowing.

I hope I have elucidated the fact that any claim that that side cannot win is extremely unrealistic. Knowledge is power and when it is put to good use, it guides wisdom. Otherwise, ignorance risks us turning ourselves into destructive conspiracy theorists on the election outcome. The price we may pay as a nation, just for the mere fact that a good number of Malawians wanted to cling to their own reality when in fact it was not the real reality, shall be high.

If the counting becomes too close as it continues, it is likely to create a mood similar to those that supporters have when penalty kicks are taken in a football match. I would suggest that it is prudent at that time to have this clear appreciation that we had this indicator that it could possibly be so and that maintaining tranquillity shall be for the good of us all. I hope I have served my citizenry obligation which I mentioned before I begun this analysis.

 

 

Malawi Elections 2020

 

 

 

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