Political analysts have dismissed calls from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera that President Peter Mutharika should resign and call for early election after he was named in the Malawi Police Service (MPS) food rations scam.
Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament, held a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday where he demanded that Mutharika should resign over his involvement in defrauding K145 million in public resources.
He suggested there should be an early election soon after the President’s resignation.
But Chancellor College-based political analysts Ernest Thindwa and Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa separately observed in different forums that calling for Mutharika’s resignation and advocating for an early election is a far-fetched dream.
On his part, Thindwa wondered if Chakwera’s call for Mutharika to resign and let Malawians choose a new leader would yield any results considering the political landscape in the country.
He said the Constitution is clear on the procedures as it has the provision which allows the Vice-President to take over State affairs in case the President resigns, dies or is certified incapacitated.
Said Thindwa: “I am not sure if the call for early elections is legally supported because our system provides for the Vice-President to take over.
“I do not see the probability of having an early election, also considering that the political environment is difficult to demand for the resignation of the President.”
He added that the only way Mutharika can be removed from power is through impeachment which he believes is a process that can take place next year at the ballot.
Echoing Thindwa’s sentiments, Chirwa argued that the Constitution does not provide for an early election in the event that the President resigns. He said, instead, the supreme law gives the Vice-President the mandate to run affairs of the country.
He said: “There is no constitutional provision for early elections in Malawi. In the event that the President resigns, the Vice-President takes over until new polls are conducted. Unless somebody has not read the Constitution.”
With about 10 months to the 2019 Tripartite Elections, Chakwera has asked Mutharika to resign with immediate effect to pave the way for an early election which he believes will put in power a leader with the zeal and political will to combat corruption.
He intoned that Malawians are tired of hearing about its leaders getting involved in corruption which has become a blot on the country’s image internationally.
Said Chakwera: “I verily believe that this shocking revelation is only a tip of the iceberg on the plunder of resources. It is a concrete anecdote to doubting Thomases about the depth and breadth of wanton plunders of public resources by the very same people this nation supposedly entrusted.”
He also slammed Mutharika for what he called a cocky unremorseful response he made surrounding the huge funds he received, a reason why the major opposition does not want to give the President another chance to be a steward of State affairs and resources.
A leaked dossier from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) indicated that Mutharika was the beneficiary of alleged proceeds of crime amounting to K145 million which was deposited in a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account at Standard Bank which he is a sole signatory.
But State House has defended the President, claiming the money was a donation from the food rations supplier, Pioneer Investments.
Chakwera’s calls came barely a day after civil society organisations (CSOs) launched what they have dubbed Operation Chotsa Mbava and gave the President 14 days to resign.
But responding to the calls, presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani argued that Chakwera is not justified to call for Mutharika’s resignation because it is clear that the President did not personally benefit from the K145 million.
He said: “There is no justification for the President to resign over this issue because the record is clear that Mutharika never personally benefited from the alleged funds as the leader of opposition is alleging.”
Some social commentators have argued that the recent revelations on the involvement of the President in the scandal will result in him getting unpopular come May 2019 Tripartite Elections.
But at the weekend, political analyst Henry Chingaipe cast doubt if the scandal has the potential to dim Mutharika’s popularity as well as that of the DPP because of what he called ‘docile citizenry’.
He told our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday: “In our context, these revelations do not matter so much because of the advantage of the incumbency.”
Recently, there have been calls from Mutharika’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima, CSOs and some politicians in Parliament that the Section 91 (2) of the Constitution which gives the sitting President immunity from prosecution be amended to allow the President face criminal charges.