The 2014 presidential election is already rigged. Every honest stakeholder knows this. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) knows this. The Malawi Election Information Centre knows this. The National Democratic Institute knows this. The Institute for Peace and War Reporting knows this. The Commonwealth, AU, SADC, EU and other election observer missions know this. Civil society, international and national alike, knows this. Journalists know this. Academics and non-academics alike know this. The Christian Clergy, the Islamic Grand Mufti, the High Priest of the Nyahbinghi Order, and the Tate of the Chipembezo cha Makolo, know this. Police officers know this. Party monitors and secretaries-general of political parties know this.
The traditional chiefs are aware of this. Presidential candidates, too, are aware of this. MG 66 and Native Authority Mandela know this. We, Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson and I also know this fact.
How do we know this?
The 2014 presidential is rigged because it is not different from previous presidential elections. Despite protestations from some lovers of democracy and umunthu, the law still endorses the rigging of presidential elections.
All honest stakeholders know that the Electoral Commission Act mandates the commission to set fees for electoral candidates and that the 2014 election fee will go down into the Guinness Book of Records as the most exorbitant and prohibitive for a country where the majority of people cannot even afford two meals per day.
In short, the law says the rich should run for the high office of president and rule, and the poor should merely watch, vote and be ruled. So, all honest stakeholders will acknowledge that, like previous elections, the 2014 presidential election is rigged against the poor; even if these be intelligent and have innovative ideas. We know a presidential candidate who walked to MEC offices twice to present his nomination papers. He was mocked, laughed at, and virtually spat upon. His point was proved, nonetheless. Malawi’s electoral laws favour the rich. So, the 2014 presidential election is already rigged towards the rich; even if these be dull and murderous and have no idea about running a government.
The 2014 presidential election is already rigged. All honest stakeholders will admit that we have 12 presidential candidates and 12 running mates. All honest stakeholders know that the presidential candidate for Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP) paid the same amount of money as the presidential candidates for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP), National Salvation Front (NASAF), Tisintha Alliance, New Labour Party (NLP), Peoples Party (PP), Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM), Peoples Transformation Party (PETRA), United Independence Party (UIP), Umodzi Party, and the United Democratic Front (UDF). All honest stakeholders are aware that no political party in Malawi has registered members although all parties have followers, admirers, fanatics and potential martyrs.
How then have journalists and other stakeholders unashamedly reduced the number of presidential contestants to four? What makes the UDF, PP, DPP and MCP the only parties that we should concentrate on? Why are the other parties, the majority of the parties, denied a voice? When will these be featured in debates? No poll has been conducted to show which parties are big or small; yet journalists and other stakeholders have already rigged the voters’ minds to choose from among the four tried and tested parties, all which have not-so-good a record in terms of governance.
We, Shiekh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, Abiti Joyce Befu, Native Authority Mandela and I, seated here in Monkey Bay, drinking fantakoko, are not surprised. We admit that the media are good at creating awareness about political parties and candidates. That cannot be denied. It cannot also be denied that the same media are good at setting their sponsors’ agenda. They proffer what they, or their sponsors, like to see achieved. They promote those they, or their sponsors, want while subtly annihilating those that they, or their sponsors, don’t want. Professional communicators call this symbolic amplification or symbolic annihilation. The MBC, our MBC, for instance, symbolically amplifies the candidature of Joyce Banda, Sosten Gwengwe and the PP while symbolically annihilating the candidatures of the eleven other contestants and their parties. You already know what other radio stations, TV stations, News websites and Newspapers do promote.
In short, the media are not always neutral, non-partisan, and objective as they always claim. That’s why the media are not always reliable in times of elections. That cannot be denied. That’s why we encourage potential voters to attend all party meetings in addition to devouring media content.
The 2014 presidential election is already rigged because should Chipani Cha Pfuko genuinely win, the so-called big but member-less parties will be alarmed. The MEC and the Civil Society, which have silently but clearly endorsed that only four presidential candidates stand a chance of winning will be startled. Will the results be accepted by panga-wielding parties? The 2014 presidential election is already rigged.
While the 2014 presidential election is already rigged towards four parties with very questionable governance records, the so-called small parties should not be dissuaded. The 2014 election is not just about winning the presidency, although that is what matters most in Malawi; but Parliament and the local government wards need to be filled. If the so-called small parties can fill the Parliament and the councils, they will have paved the way to graduating into ‘big’ parties.