European Union (EU) Ambassador Sandra Paesen has called for dialogue to resolve the current political impasse and reforms as solutions to long-term electoral and development challenges facing the country.
The envoy, who has clocked a year in the country, was speaking in an exclusive interview with Nation Online and private broadcaster Zodiak Broadcasting Station on development and political issues.
Paesen said the EU, along with other members of the international community, were working with various political and civil society players to ensure the country finds a lasting solution to the political impasse which has followed disputed May 21 presidential election results.
She said: “We are talking to all sides, trying to understand what is their position, their stand; taking note of that and seeing how we can possibly share ideas. This dialogue within dialogue is very important.
“But the question should not be what are diplomats doing. We need a Malawi approach and we are very confident that you will be able to come out of the situation.”
Since the elections, in which Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) President Peter Mutharika winner, the country has experienced regular protests led by civil society groups under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and backed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party.
MCP presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM Party counterpart Saulos Chilima are jointly challenging the presidential election results in the Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, and seeking nullification of the presidential polls.
HRDC, on the other hand, is demanding that MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, should resign for allegedly mismanaging the elections.
But in the interview, Paesen said while the demonstrations are a constitutional right, they have turned violent and wreaked the local economy and many businesses; hence, the need for dialogue to ensure those seeking electoral justice do so in a peaceful atmosphere.
She also called for the courts to be allowed to conduct the trial in a speedy and fair manner.
Said the envoy: “Of course there is a court order, a moratorium so due process is very important. Curtailing freedom of expression, curtailing freedom of assembly of course is something we are observing right now but if it happened we would sanction it as EU and of course as Malawians, you have rights and adhere to international principles. I would not want to see such a situation.”
According to Paesen, the EU believes the country needs national dialogue to discuss challenges in accountability of public funds, legal reforms required following the electoral dispute and reconciliation issues. She cited Parliament as one forum where the issues can be tackled.
On electoral reforms which were rejected by Parliament last year but were supported by the EU and other donors, the EU Ambassador said it would be up to the current Parliament to decide on whether the reforms should be revisited, adding the EU will support Malawians’ position.
There are ongoing dialogue efforts to bring the governing DPP, MEC and aggrieved parties MCP, UTM Party and HRDC to a roundtable to discuss a way out of the post-elections stalemate.
The Public Affairs (PAC) mediation team has so far met Chilima, Chakwera, HRDC leaders and Mutharika to discuss possible solutions to the political impasse.
However, the outcomes of both meetings have not been made public, with PAC only saying the meetings were “cordial, fruitful and constructive”.
In July, former president Bakili Muluzi also met the HRDC leadership and later Mutharika in his quest to also seek a political solution to the impasse.