MCP leadership should tread carefully on demos

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supporters have this week been holding peaceful demonstrations across the country to register their odium and disgust at the management of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections. 

In the elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Peter Mutharika winner of the presidential elections after amassing 1931 000 votes or 38.57 percent of the results. The MCP candidate Lazarus Chakwera got 1735.4 percent while UTM Party candidate Saulos Chilima received 20 percent of the ballots.

MCP’s revulsion over MEC is premised on their belief that the election was fraudulent in that the electoral body announced the results before exhaustively resolving the many anomalies which were lodged to the electoral body. These include tally sheets that were altered with Tipp-Ex. Others are that presiding officers refused to share results sheets with party monitors while some returning officers kept the tally sheets overnight in their homes where it is suspected they tampered with the tally sheets.

Two days after voting MEC chairperson Jane Ansah reported that her organisation had received 147 complaints at all levels—presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. The following day she claimed MEC had dealt with all the anomalies and went ahead to announce the results.

But both MCP and UTM say it is a lie that MEC resolved all the complaints. The parties feel the election was stolen from them in broad day light. And they think they have irrefutable evidence for that. Chakwera is on record as saying nothing will stop him from seeking justice on the matter.

The two parties have since sought redress in the courts. The parties and candidates want the results nullified and hold either a rerun or recount of the presidential votes.

MCP and UTM are aware that this is as much a political issue which requires party supporters from all corners of the country to rally around their cause, as it is a constitutional matter that the courts can competently deal with. The demonstrations and rallies the parties are organising are, therefore, meant to whip up people’s emotions and keep the fire burning towards this cause.

The two parties have a genuine reason to protest the results. It is also their democratic right to hold peaceful demonstrations to register their detestation of the outcome of the elections. No one can take that away from them. But where the MCP supporters are getting it wrong is to take their demonstrations to government offices and disrupt government machinery. This is wrong and MCP supporters would do well to maintain a sense of levelheadedness and exercise restraint if they want the public to continue supporting them. The civil servants that the supporters targeted at Capital Hill had nothing to do with the suspected fraud. The supporters whom MCP has disowned should have directed their anger to MEC using proper procedures.

Granted, MCP has distanced itself from the people who went to cause havoc at Capital Hill on Tuesday. But we all know that MCP is only making a political statement. We are not saying MCP officially sanctioned the exercise. But everyone from the MCP leadership to anyone reading this article know that those demonstrations could not have happened if the party’s leadership condemned them in the first place. And this is the reason that consequently, MCP and its leadership and no one else, will suffer collateral damage should the anarchy that happened on Tuesday continue.

For all intents and purposes, MCP and UTM need to push the courts following proper procedures because they have genuine grievances. Courts are the right institutions with the mandate to deal with electoral complaints beyond MEC. But it is not violence or any undue pressure on any institution of the government that will make the courts deliver the justice they are looking for. Having resolved to take the matter to justice institutions, they should appreciate that wheels of justice grind slowly. They may continue exerting pressure outside courts, but such action should be peaceful.

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