Election campaigns throughout Malawi began officially in February. For the Rumphi West parliamentary seat, Jacqueline was one of 7 candidates, 4 women and 3 men. She was the only truly independent candidate, with all except one of the others representing the main political parties in Malawi.
In the last week of campaigning the tempo increased significantly, with most candidates becoming ever more extravagant in their election promises and hand-outs. Campaigning stopped on the night of 17 May, leaving two full days to have all the logistics in place for voting on 20 May. In Luviri as in most other parts of Malawi, the local school was used as the voting centre, with the head-teacher doubling as Presiding Officer and the teachers helping with stewarding and logistics.
Voting on 20 May began at 6 AM with a steady stream of people queuing throughout the day until the close at 6 PM, with turnout roughly 75%. Jacqueline had her own monitors present at all of the 32 voting stations to make sure that proper procedures were observed. Votes were also being cast for councillors and for Malawi’s next President but all attention was on the Rumphi West parliamentary seat.
By 9 PM Jacqueline and the team at Luviri had gathered to collect the voting data for all of the 32 voting stations which the monitors were phoning in as soon as votes had been counted. Before long it was becoming clear that Jacqueline was heading for a decisive victory; many of the team members stayed up through the night and the tension and tiredness gave way to the joy that comes from the sweet taste of victory as the last voting stations confirmed the clear trend: people were massively choosing for Jacqueline, voting for real, meaningful development instead of tired party politics and a tradition of hand-outs and empty promises!
When day dawned on 21 May Jacqueline and her entire team could finally savour the reward for months of long and hard work; radio and TV announced her success and messages of congratulations started flooding in. Official figures showed that Jacqueline had received nearly 60% of the votes for the Rumphi West seat, the biggest in the area, winning in 27 of the 32 voting centres. Such a huge margin of victory is almost unheard-of here, and speaks volumes for the high regard in which she and Eva Demaya are held.
At the Centre began a low-profile but joyful day of celebrations with song, dance and drama, as is usual here when marking a special event. It took until June 2nd to announce the newly elected president – Peter Mutharika – and the new members of parliament officially on television. From now on the Malawian press and media will have to get used to the correct pronunciation of the name of Jacqueline Kouwenhoven… it will take a little practice …