A new round of elections in Malawi is around the corner. The historic Constitutional Court judgement from February of this year, which annulled the 2019 elections, gave many Malawians renewed hope in the intrinsic value of democratic freedoms as well as the instrumental role democracy can play in promoting and achieving much-needed (and much-delayed) economic and social development.
And when the Supreme Court in May upheld the decision of the Constitutional Court, a new round of elections was inevitable.
In between these two court rulings, the delay in the appointment a new group of commissioners at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), incidences of violence on the campaign trail, attacks on the impartiality of judicial institutions and question marks on the powers of the Parliament on electoral matters, dampened some of the initial excitement.
Then there was the global Covid-19 crisis and the fear that Malawi was thoroughly unprepared for a catastrophe of such magnitude. Thankfully such fears have been proved wrong, at least for the time being.
And election rallies have taken place throughout the country, often without the necessary social distancing measures recommended by health authorities. But who can blame the masses who believe that the new elections hold the key to the country’s future?
Ever since the now discredited 2019 elections, there has been considerable uncertainty about the competence and ability of MEC to conduct credible elections. And following recent court rulings, the fear has been that MEC will be unable to avoid making the same types of mistakes that it was accused of in the previous round.
Another matter relates to whether the new team at MEC under Justice Chifundo Kachale has had enough time to prepare for the challenges ahead and whether there are enough financial resources and competent staff available to conduct a new round of elections without previously highlighted irregularities.
Notwithstanding these issues, Malawi has much to look forward to. If things go well and the election process and results are viewed to be credible by the masses, the legitimacy of elected officials will most likely be enhanced.
When a majority of Malawians vote for their chosen candidates and alliances, those assuming power will perhaps be more confident of public support and be better motivated and able to chart a new path forward for the country.
A recent survey by the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) has found that majority of Malawians have considerable trust in healthcare providers and are not worried about being infected by Covid-19.
Rather, they are very concerned about daily hunger. The same survey also found that among the most important factors that influence voting decisions in the country are policy promises and perceived government corruption.