Malawi at crossroads

  • Mutharika must fall —Chakwera
  • Challenges poll results in court

As President Peter Mutharika tried to rally the country around his leadership in Blantyre yesterday, his closest challenger Lazarus Chakwera was declaring that “Mutharika must fall”.

Describing Mutharika as an illegitimate president, Chakwera said he and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are challenging the results in court to nullify them. 

Mutharika shows off the sword of honour to the crowd during his inauguration yesterday

Said Mutharika in his inaugural address at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre: “The people have spoken. Let the voice of the people prevail. Fellow Malawians, this election is gone. But we have a country to develop. And we have work to do ahead of us!

“Let us all remember that we have more that unites us than anything that divides us. Whether you voted at all or not voted. Whether you voted for us or not for us, I am your President. I am the President of all Malawians.”

Chakwera: It was robbery

But his efforts at uniting a divided country comes a breath away from sidelining MCP leader Chakwera and UTM torchbearer Saulos Chilima whom the Mutharika did not invite to his inauguration, where optics would have shown the three political rivals coalesce around a national event after votes that were spread along regional lines.

Chilima carried the Northern Region vote while Chakwera dominated the Central Region, leaving Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holding their traditional Southern Region stronghold.

And going by what both Chakwera and Chilima have said, Mutharika will have problems to govern a united country.

At a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday, Chakwera rejected the elections results describing them as “daylight robbery” and “a crime against our decency as a people and our democracy as a nation”.

He said: “I, Lazarus Chakwera, reject MEC’s fraudulent presidential results, and I join all Malawians in rejecting that MEC’s declaration of Mutharika as the winner represents the will of the people who cast their votes.”

He said the party would, as a consequence, take the matter to the High Court to nullify the results of the elections.  

The former charismatic evangelical preacher-turned-politician added that contrary to MEC’s public stated position that MCP did not file any official complaints to the electoral body, the party has evidence of submitting both written and verbal complaints.

He lambasted MEC for being in a hurry to announce the results without addressing those concerns, citing how MEC joined forces with lawyers of rival candidate Mutharika and how before the lawyers of MCP were briefed on the ruling on an injunction MCP had obtained against the announcement of results, the MEC chairperson rushed to deliver a prepared statement on results. 

Chakwera further bemoaned the silence by the international community on the matter and decried that the elections “had laid bare the corruption that has contaminated” the country’s governance institutions.

He called upon the party’s supporters to remain calm and avoid taking the law into their hands, but said the DPP-led government was already carrying out vendetta against civil servants and other citizens who are perceived to have voted for the opposition or hail from parts of the country that overwhelmingly voted for the opposition.

In a brief statement with the media on May 25, Chilima called for nullification of the votes and a re-run, saying the elections were marred by serious irregularities, hence a new vote should be called. The UTM leader said the law permits MEC to cancel results.

 The polarised electorate has led Mutharika—who won the presidency last week with 38 percent of the vote in a contest marred by irregularities—to face questions of legitimacy not just from his challengers, but also from influential groups such as the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) who say he has carried the day in an election that lacked credibility.

 On Thursday PAC, a quasi-religious body formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one party to multiparty democracy, gave its position during a press briefing in Blantyre addressed by its chairperson Reverend Felix Chingota, who accused MEC of messing up the results management system.

“We know that more than 147 complaints were lodged but were not fully resolved. For this reason many people feel that justice has been ignored and that institutions in the electoral process have failed to give the truth and justice a chance,” said Chingota.

 In his inaugural speech yesterday, Mutharika promised to develop Malawi, but barely dwelt on what experts and critics say is the biggest cause of Malawi underdevelopment: corruption, which official estimates show that it drains at least 30 percent of public resources that can be reinvested in human development for the country.

 But in a phone interview, MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah yesterday dismissed the allegation that the electoral body was disinterested in handling the complaints by MCP, saying MEC responded in writing to all complaints the party had submitted, except additional ones which the party had raised verbally through its secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka.

She responded to allegations that the commission was in a hurry to release the results, saying by the time the court delivered its verdict on the injunction the commission had satisfied itself that it had investigated and addressed all concerns about irregularities and complaints.

“This is not what I said (during MEC press briefing), I said that we received one complaint from MCP and we responded to it. In one letter there were four issues and were responded to them. After that time we had already responded to them and we were prepared to declare the results.

“We were prepared for both scenarios. Our preparations were based on processed results. At that time, we had responded to their letter. Mr. Mkaka came to see us that they had madando (complaints). When we said come with them in writing, the next thing he went to court,” said Ansah. 

DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, in an interview, accused Chakwera of attempting to incite violence.

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