The clock is slowly, but surely, ticking towards May 21, the day Malawians will go the polls to choose their ward councillors, members of Parliament and President.
With just a few days to wind up campaign period, candidates in the May 21 elections are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to garner as much votes as they could. Politicians have been to places they never before knew existed in Malawi—some have been to the remotest places in Malawi that they probably never are part of Malawi.
It is in this quest for votes that politicians have also been saying some of the weirdest things and throwing cheap jibes at each other to woo votes to themselves and for their parties. In the thick of things, accusations and counter-accusations have been made.
Just last week, UTM presidential candidate Saulos Chilina told people at a rally in Chitipa that he knows who burnt down Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) offices in Lilongwe in 2014. Chilima says he has evidence and ready to share it.
Bravo Chilima for being this courageous to name and shame some criminal minds that are among us. However, Chilima is taking us for fools. When the burning happened, he was much part of the inner-circle for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which begs the question, at what time did he know about this criminal act and why talk about it now, and not then? If it is wrong now, it was wrong then. Chilima should have condemned it then and not five years later.
It is sad that politicians have turned a better part of the campaign period into a war of words and character assassination and, meanwhile, digressing from focusing on issues of public interest. Peddling vote rigging fears will only assist in increasing voter apathy. Politicians ought to be responsible enough and stop making unsubstantiated claims of vote rigging.
MEC commissioner Jean Mathanga’s public announcement that there are some politicians who want to tamper with MEC systems, is also an unfortunate remark. I find this quite disturbing coming from MEC, an institution which we hold in high-esteem to conduct free, fair and credible elections. Mathanga’s remarks, as reported in the media, are somehow an admission that MEC’s system is porous and prone to tampering. How then are Malawians supposed to trust MEC?
If, indeed, MEC believes there are some people who want to interfere with the elections, what is it doing about it with just a few weeks before Malawians go to the polls?
All this talk by politicians about vote rigging does not help to inspire confidence and credibility in the institution entrusted with conducting free, fair and credible elections. What the parties are basically insinuating is that MEC is incapable of conducting free, fair and credible elections because the systems at MEC can be easily tampered with.
As stakeholders in the elections and, if indeed these political parties, believe in upholding the will of the people, what they need to be talking about right now is how they can help MEC seal all loopholes that would allow for tampering with the elections. This pointing of fingers at each other isn’t helping anyone.