Honourable folks, on Tuesday the country finally held the long-awaited fresh presidential election (FPE) to pick a new President who will manage the affairs of nearly 17.6 million Malawians until 2025.
The historic vote tightly pitted Malawi’s President-elect Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) against his long-time rival and outgoing president Peter Mutharika who was the torchbearer for the ousted former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Besides Mutharika who came second, a very small fraction of voters voted for the third candidate Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD) but his few votes kept him at a distant third spot.
Folks, the rest, as they say, is history. At long last Malawi has new leadership in Chakwera as State President and Saulos Chilima of UTM Party as Vice-President.
But the June 23 poll, which was ordered by the Constitutional Court on February 3 following the nullification of Mutharika’s victory on May 19 2019, will go down in history as one of the most contested and decisive elections that Malawi has ever seen since the inception of the current multiparty politics in 1994.
Certainly, this was a watershed choice whose process preceded countless dramatic scenes not to mention the vigorous court battles mounted by lawyers for Chakwera and Chilima who successfully challenged APM’s win on the basis of massive irregularities by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
Until a few weeks ago, many Malawians probably doubted that the FPE would really occur within the specified 150 days as ordered by the courts as DPP never wanted to die while lying in bed.
DPP also adopted a wide range of political manoeuvres, including futile attempts to circumvent the court order through Parliament and constantly disparaging High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) judges through coordinated attacks on the judiciary by the party’s leadership.
This, ladies and gentlemen, exacerbated DPP’s ‘devil-may-care’ attitude and its continued disregard on several key democratic principles that may have catapulted the party into government in 2014.
That is a debate for another day suffice to say in this time and age no politician or political parties should take Malawians for granted.
The country’s political platform has now matured and citizens no longer subscribe to the politics of lies, castigations, corruption, nepotism and impunity, among others.
This is one of the key lessons that DPP will have to live up with as the party starts its process of reflection and healing now that they have been kicked out of government through what was probably one o the most peaceful electoral processes in the region.
Nonetheless, we cannot conclude today’s discussion without applauding the new MEC chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale who has demonstrated to all Malawians that MEC is capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections.
The electoral body has constantly come under fire for its alleged bias in the management of elections in the country by mostly towing along the lines of ruling parties.
At the time Kachale was appointed to head MEC on June 7, the electoral body’s image had been badly battered and the body faced severe loss of trust among many Malawians, particularly over the way previous commissioners conducted some crucial elections.
However, in his brief stay at MEC, Kachale has helped the commission to regain its lost trust, no wonder the just ended elections had very few and minor hitches compared to the previous general election.
Finally, it’s a known fact that Malawi has been at a standstill for almost three years now because of politics and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, among others, that have affected the country’s social economic and political dynamics.
The best the DPP-led alliance can do at this moment is to allow the reality that Chakwera was finally a better candidate on the ballot over their own and then continue serving Malawians through provision of checks and balances at various levels of governance.
Free piece of advice to the new government; you promised Malawians heaven and that is how you earned victory. The only guarantee to doing well in the next election is by delivering those promises and avoiding repeating DPP’s mistakes.