President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP have a high approval rating of 59 percent, but draw little trust from Malawians, according to a survey on their first year in office.
Findings of a recent survey conducted in Rumphi, Salima and Thyolo districts by the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) led by Boniface Dulani, a University of Malawi academic and Afrobarometer representative, show that Malawians “have passed their judgement—and that judgement is mostly negative.”
The survey report, detailing democratic governance and people’s assessments of the President’s one year in office, was made public in Salima.
The findings show Malawians are proud of decisions effected by the Mutharika administration such as appointing and maintaining a lean Cabinet, prosecution of Cashgate cases, embarking on a public sector reform drive, no cases of political detentions, allowing public demonstrations without hindrance with traditional indices of governance suggesting Malawi has not regressed.
Freedom House, for example, rates the country exactly in 2015 as it was in the beginning of 2014.
However, there are lingering questions about liberalisation of the public media, no major progress on promises to trim presidential powers, lack of leadership on critical issues such as salaries, State-owned Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) sale and “focus on trivia”, among others.
Said Dulani: “The general picture from the survey is one of negativity. Seven in 10, thus 70 percent, of respondents from the three districts, say the country is going in the wrong direction.
In general, 42 percent of Malawians in the sampled districts where 600 in all particiapted do not trust the President. There are also low levels of trust ratings for the President in Thyolo (39 percent) and Salima (39 percent), with lower performance approval ratings for him in Salima and Rumphi.
Interestingly, at 55 percent, Rumphi residents trust the President more than those of Salima and his native Thyolo.
While acknowledging that it might be too early to pass judgement on the Mutharika presidency from a democracy and governance perspective after only a year in office, Dulani said: “There have been a few promising signs, but some not-so-promising ones as well.”
Presidential adviser on civil society organisations Mavuto Bamusi said the results of the survey are not a true reflection of what is happening on the ground as the survey has largely dependeded on politics.
He said performance ratings show that majority of Malawians, 59 percent, are happy with the performance of the President.
Bamusi, however, said the mistrust can be a result of where the country is coming from in terms of leadership.
The study had a representative sample of people 18 years and above and used quota system through face-to-face interviews in either Chichewa or Chitumbuka or English in a few cases.
The interviews were done between March 9 and May 2 2015.
Mutharika and DPP ascended to power following their victory in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.