President Peter Mutharika has come under fire once again for his recent tone on the outcome of the May 21 Tripartite Elections, with some commentators fearing the tone has the potential to incite violence if the court rules otherwise.
In particular, the President has been faulted for his interview with Aljazeera television first beamed on Saturday where he reiterated that he won the elections. He also went further to claim that six international organisations declared the elections “free, fair and credible”.
Mutharika, among others, cited the European Union (EU), Commonwealth, African Union (AU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) observer missions as among those that declared the polls “free, fair and credible”.
Nation Online could not verify or find final reports the mentioned international organisations issued declaring the May 21 Tripartite Elections “free, fair and credible”.
But an audit report by BDO Jordan, a firm commissioned by the UNDP, outlines 15 items that show the whole process—from voting to final tallying of results—had challenges that needed addressing before results were announced.
In particular, the audit report indicates processing and transmission of the results of the polls shows that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) had more challenges than they admitted which needed to be addressed before announcing the winner.
An EU Malawi source said the grouping’s observer mission had not released its final report on the Malawi elections.
Said the source: “What was issued was a preliminary report covering other aspects such as campaign and primaries. With regard to results management, EU has not yet released its report. So, that statement [by Mutharika] is misleading. Actually, EU never uses words like free and fair in elections. They use such words as inclusive and transparent.”
The electoral body declared Mutharika winner, giving him another five-year mandate, after he narrowly defeated his main challenger Malawi Congress Party (MCP) torchbearer Lazarus Chakwera with 1 940 709 votes against 1 781 740.
In the interview with Aljazeera, Mutharika further claimed that the international observers went as far as declaring the country’s elections as an example to the rest of Africa.
He said: “It was completely free, fair and credible… the opposition lost the elections and they decided not to accept and are trying to save their face.”
While defending the use of Tippex by justifying that there was nothing wrong under the law to use the correctional fluid where “there were problems of addition and subtraction” Mutharika also blamed MCP for the current political impasse.
During this year’s 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (Unga74) in New York, Mutharika also stated in his address that the elections were credible and accused the country’s longtime opposition political party of perpetrating post-election violence.
But analysts have faulted the President and other political leaders, advising them to focus on preparing their members of the outcome of the presidential elections case currently in the Constitutional Court instead of claiming victory or defeat.
“At this particular moment, message of peace is very significant for both sides of the political divide to prepare their electorates for the outcome that may favour them. Unfortunately, they all don’t seem to be prepared to do that,” observed University of Malawi (Unima) political scientist Ernest Thindwa.
He said any message of victory was inappropriate because it was not preparing the electorate to accept the court outcome because the fact that the case was in court suggests it could go either way.
Thindwa observed it was too early to start claiming victory and politicians needed to wait for the court ruling and instead focus their energies on nation building, reconciliation, and calming the tempers.
“Unfortunately, instead of calming the tempers both sides of the political divide are fuelling the tempers by claiming victory which means whatever the court outcome, one side will not accept the outcome. There is a risk for this country to go into flames once the court ruling has been passed,” he said.
Thindwa noted that international observers might have declared the polls free and fair because they did not have all the relevant facts.
On his part, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana urged the leaders to sober up and avoid inciting violence.
He said international observers all over Africa most times do not interfere with politics of particular countries, as such, their reports are the same.
But reacting on behalf of Mutharika, presidential press secretary MgemeKalilani said the President does not have to be apologetic about his victory.
He said: “He personally worked so hard selling his party agenda for Malawi and voters gave him a new mandate. Should he be apologetic? If so, why?
“The President was only being factual in the interview. If some so-called analyst is not comfortable with the facts, we’ll let them be. The facts will not change.”
Last week, South Africa-based Malawian prophet Shepherd Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) also described the ongoing elections court case as a ticking bomb waiting to explode if the country ignores the likely impact the outcome will bring.
In July, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) expressed reservations on the conduct of the electoral stakeholders in the aftermath of the May 21 elections.
In its letter dated July 12 2019 under the subject Management of Electoral Complaints and Determination of Electoral Complaints and Determination of Electoral Results Concerning Presidential Elections 2019 addressed to politicians, including Mutharika, MEC and HRDC, the lawyers body advised political leaders to spend energy on preparing their members on the outcome of the case court case instead of continuing to conduct public rallies when the electoral dispute matter is before the court.
MLS further asked the embattled MEC chairperson to “deeply reflect on the value of remaining in office” while her stay seemed to be the cause for the current social disruption and political unrest.