President Peter Mutharika has come under the spotlight for declaring that some of his votes were ‘stolen’ in the Central Region despite the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declaring him the winner of the May 21 2019 Presidential Election.
While commentators say his assertion has raised controversy and questions credibility of the elections, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM want him to be on the witnesses list of their elections case because of the statement.
During his first post-election rally in Blantyre last Saturday, Mutharika, while not elaborating, told the crowd that there was no rigging during the election although some of his votes were stolen.
Mutharika’s testimony implied that he could have amassed more votes than what the commission declared and consequently agrees with the top two presidential contenders that the election results were fraudulent.
MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima already took the matter to court, disputing the outcome of the election that saw Mutharika being declared winner of the sixth pluralistic poll since the end of the one-party dictatorship 25 years ago. Mutharika is the first respondent in the matter.
However, Mutharika has already applied to the Constitutional Court to dismiss the two parties’ applications for purportedly being irregular, defective and lacking sworn affidavits by the petitioners.
Associate professor of political and administrative studies at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Mustafa Hussein, said, in an interview, that Mutharika’s pronouncement eroded public confidence in MEC.
He said: “That statement coming from a person who was declared president, makes the results suspect. There is need for MEC to do some soul-searching.”
Hussein said Mutharika made a strong statement which meant that the elections were not credible despite some stakeholders such as MEC itself claiming that they were free and fair.
“If number one, number two and number three are all saying the results were stolen, then it raises controversy regarding the credibility of the election’ results,” he said.
Governance commentator Martin Chiphwanya also observed that Mutharika’s statement “renders credence to the allegations made by Chakwera and Chilima that the election was marred with irregularities”.
“His statement is in agreement with concerns raised by the other top contenders. The fact that all top contenders are making similar allegation and are dissatisfied with the election outcome raises doubts about MEC’s credibility.
“It tells a story that the elections may not have been credible and in the wake of these allegations, MEC has some explanation to do to the nation to clear itself,” he said.
Chiphwanya, however, said the court process underway would “surely help to uncover so many finer details on what exactly happened”.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi was not available for comment but MCP and UTM spokespersons the Reverend Maurice Munthali and Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, respectively, claimed Mutharika was now a witness in their election case.
Said Chidanti-Malunga: “Technically, we are now adding another witness to the list of witnesses. I hope he is going to come in court and present his case as a witness.”
On his part, Munthali said it was gratifying that Mutharika revealed to Malawians such information which would now make the party conclude that “he is accepting to have been unlawfully sworn-in because his victory was out of stolen votes”.
“It does not really matter whether the rigging was in his favour or not, what matters in this case is the fact that his votes were stolen and he has accepted that the process was not right,” he explained.
The MCP publicist further said Mutharika was now a complainant in the matter and complaining on the podium as the matter is serious in nature.should stop trivialising it by
“He should now face the law and accept to be a witness in the case because all the top three presidential candidates are now consenting to the fact that the votes were rigged.
“So. his statement strengthens what Dr Chakwera and Dr Chilima have been talking about all along. They have now been exonerated because people thought they were just speaking because they wanted to rule the country,” said Munthali.
But a constitutional law expert who did not want to be named said people need not take seriously political statements made on the podium.
“Politicians make all sorts of statements while on the podium and so we don’t have to take them too seriously. There is always grandstanding just to show confidence and we cannot hold each one account to their statements,” he said.
Mutharika was declared winner in the elections after narrowly defeating his main challenger Malawi Congress Party (MCP) torchbearer Chakwera with 1 940 709 votes against 1 781 740.
A majority 62 percent of Malawians rejected him and his running mate Everton Chimulirenji—now Vice-President in the first-past-the-post (winner takes-it-all) presidential race.