UTM Party president Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC) has urged his followers to join the Thursday demonstrations organised by civil society organisation (CSOs) who are calling for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.
The CSOs argue that Ansah and her commissioners failed to manage the May 21 Tripartite Elections which were marred by irregularities, including the use of Tippex to alter some results sheets.
Speaking during a thank you rally at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe yesterday, Chilima stressed that people should exercise their right to demonstrate and not fear anything as the National Anthem states.
Chilima’s call did not come as surprise following some pointers his vice president Michael Usi made in his speech earlier that when time is ripe, people will act as they have held their patience for too long.
Said Chilima: “No one is saying no to demonstrations. It is a right to demonstrate and peacefully without intimidation. I have always called for patience and when the right time is right, I will say go. But for the Thursday demonstrations, lets us join the CSOs.”
He further called on police to protect and not intimidate the demonstrators and that if there will be need for the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to come in, they too, should exercise their duty of protecting Malawians.
“Let me warn the police to avoid intimidating people. Let the people demonstrate peacefully and don’t throw teargas on them. It is their right, there is no need for teargas,” said the UTM Party president.
Chilima, who assured his followers that UTM Party “is here to stay”, said the party is the only one which has a vision.
He also said previous leaderships have failed to implement the Vision 2020, which expires next year.
University of Malawi’s Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa has since commended Chilima’s call, saying it is every Malawian’s right to demonstrate whenever they have seen that things are not going right.
He said: “People are justified to demonstrate. By manipulating the results using Tippex, MEC has put Malawi to shame. There should be more pressure on the duty-bearers to tell us what really happened. So, Chilima endorsing this is good. But let the demonstrations be peaceful, let the demonstrations to be sustained until things have changed.”
On his part, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson, who is also one of the organisers of the demonstrations, Gift Trapence, said they welcome any endorsements and the demonstrations are for every Malawian regardless of political affiliation.
He said: “All citizens are welcome to join. Actually, we urge all political parties, including DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] who have also said they were not happy with the way the elections were handled by MEC.”
Voting in the tripartite elections took place on May 21 in 5 002 polling stations nationwide and DPP President Peter Mutharika was declared a winner seven days after the voting, securing his second five-year term.
The results have, however, been challenged by Mutharika’s main contenders, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party, who have called for the nullification of the presidential poll, arguing some anomalies were overlooked.
The two parties have both filed their cases at the High Court in Lilongwe whose hearing starts on Wednesday.
In a June 7 2019 letter to Ansah, the UTM Party has also demanded the chairperson’s resignation, citing several incidences pointing to her biasness towards the DPP candidate in the May 21 presidential election, Peter Mutharika.
The polarised electorate has led Mutharika—who won the presidency with 38.5 percent of the vote—to face questions of legitimacy not just from his challengers, but also from influential groups such as the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) who say he has carried the day in an election that lacked credibility.
PAC has also endorsed the Thursday demonstrations.
According to MEC, out of 6 859 570 registered voters, 5 105 983 turned up for polling representing 74.44 percent. A total of 74 719 votes were declared null and void, representing 1.09 percent.