Next Tuesday, June 23, people in the country are going to the polls to elect president in a fresh election as ordered by the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court on February 3 this year; a ruling which the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) upheld last month.
This election, unlike those held in the past, is unique in the sense that first, it is not a general election that comes every five years as stipulated by the Constitution.
Secondly, the election is sanctioned by the courts after they nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election, owing to “gross irregularities and flouting of the law” by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MCE).
As such, it is an election that has generated interest from the politicians and their supporters. The opposition parties—Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party—who challenged the May 21 2019 presidential results, want to prove through this election that MEC robbed them of clear victory through “irregularities”. On the other hand, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) want to prove that they “won” the May 21 2019 presidential election fair and square.
However, following the court’s interpretation of majority to mean 50 percent +1, political parties have forged alliances to enable them attain majority at the polls.
The parties that contested the election have formed an alliance with other seven parties called Tonse Alliance led by MCP president Lazarus Chakwera with UTM Party leader and the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima his running mate.
On the other side, DPP and United Democratic Front (UDF) have joined forces with President Peter Mutharika as torch-bearer and UDF president Atupele Muluzi as running mate.
To make matters interesting, President Mutharika swiftly recruited new MEC commissioners and chairperson following the expiry of the controversial Jane Ansah-led MEC on June 5 (although the new one is still riddled with some controversy).
All this was in preparation for next week’s election. However, we from the streets have noticed that the journey to the fresh presidential polls has been marred by hate speeches, violence, propaganda and intimidation. All this has threatened the hard-won peace and tranquility we cherish in the country.
Our plea to the contesters is that they should accept the results even if they have not gone their way.
Historically, the country has held elections in which losers have congratulated the winner and in doing so, peace has continued to reign.
In 1994 the late president Hastings Kamuzu Banda who led MCP sent a congratulatory message to Bakili Muluzi of UDF even before vote counting was over. This was statesmanship at its best. Power exchanged hands from Banda to Muluzi smoothly.
In 2009 Muluzi, then a bitter enemy to the late Bingu wa Mutharika who ditched UDF in 2005 to form his DPP, supported MCP’s John Tembo at the polls. But, ironically, Muluzi was the first to call Bingu to congratulate him on his victory. He even attended his swearing in ceremony at Kamuzu Stadium. This, again, was a good gesture that fostered peace after the elections.
Finally in 2014, Joyce Banda who stood on People’s Party (PP) ticket, handed over the mantle to Peter Mutharika before leaving for a self-imposed exiled in the United States. Banda, despite noting that the elections were marred by irregularities, still accepted defeat.
Now, our point in the street is that there is life after an election defeat. When people have chosen a particular leader, the winner is Malawi. Just as Phanuel Egejuru writes in The Seed Yams Have Been Written, when brothers are fighting, there is neither winner nor loser. Let the loser support the winner for the betterment of the country.
As of now, the country is already divided and refusing to accept the results will easily set it on fire. Look at the political violence and protests that have been the lot since last year’s elections.
In his State of the nation address at the opening of Parliament two weeks ago, President Mutharika said the country has lost about K62 billion to political violence. This is money which could go to other projects.
Both Mutharika and Chakwera should realise that they hold the fate of the nation in their hands. Whatever they will tell their supporters after the results will determine the country’s future.
But for the leaders to accept the results, MEC, the referee, must conduct a free and fair election. We, therefore, appeal to MEC to do a good job, this time around for country top move on.
From the street, we send our hearty congratulations to the winner in advance; may you celebrate with grace and the loser, may you borrow the leaf from Kamuzu Banda, Muluzi [when he supported MCP] and Joyce Banda. n