Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera says his party will consult on the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) rejection of its request for an amendment of his candidacy to reflect the nine-party Tonse Alliance.
In a written response yesterday, the MCP leader—who has picked his party’s alliance partner and the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima as his running mate—was also quick to add that they are not moved by the rejection.
Said Chakwera: “The spirit of the alliance is what led us to write MEC on changes. It [the alliance] cannot be killed. But we will consult.”
On how the alliance would be sold to the electorate, he said they are selling a presidential candidate and his partner; hence, they will continue doing so.
Tonse Alliance has been promoting a combined symbol of MCP and UTM Party logos while Chakwera submitted his nomination with MCP symbol only.
In a letter dated May 15 2020 signed by embattled chairperson Jane Ansah, MEC advised MCP that its application to change the symbol submitted in Chakwera’s presidential election nomination papers to incorporate Tonse Alliance symbol was rejected.
In the letter, MEC said it has rejected MCP’s request because the party did not notify the registrar of political parties on changes of symbols to be used in the fresh presidential election.
Reads the MEC letter in part: “The distinctive symbol of the party was submitted and approved by the registrar of political parties under Section 12 (2) (v) of the Political Parties Act.
“The commission has not been made aware of any change to this particular aspect as approved by the registrar of political parties. Therefore, the commission, having considered the matter, has decided not to grant your request.”
In an interview yesterday, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said the electoral body had responded to MCP’s earlier communication in accordance with the law.
But in a separate interview, Ernest Thindwa, a political science lecturer at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said the rejection would not have any effect on the nature and direction of the alliance.
He said the intention to have the symbol reflected on the ballot paper might have been hatched to eliminate any sense of doubt among the largely less illiterate prospective voters on who to vote for.
“It makes political sense for the alliances if they so wish to have their respective symbols on the ballot papers if the will of the voter, most of who are illiterate, is to be secured,” said Thindwa.
During presentation of nomination papers, Chakwera said his pairing with Chilima—who is UTM Party president—in the July 2 fresh presidential election is “a date with destiny” to improve the plight of Malawians.
Chakwera, who quit the pulpit as head of Malawi Assemblies of God in 2013 to join frontline politics, said it is a dream of a new Malawi that has bound together nine political parties in an electoral ticket branded Tonse Alliance.
Commenting earlier on possible implications that two leaders of different political parties have formed a presidential ticket partnership in an election, Sunduzwayo Madise, dean of law at Chancellor College, said there are no consequences because people vote for a candidate and not a political party.
He said: “The political parties mean nothing. For example, Bingu dumped UDF [United Democratic Front] and formed the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party], a party that he contested on its ticket.”
In February 2005, Mutharika ditched UDF, a party that sponsored his presidential ticket in the 2004 General Elections, and formed DPP.
The fresh presidential election follows an initial order by a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court that on February 3 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system. The court ordered a fresh election to be held within 150 days.
The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal on May 8 upheld the Constitutional Court ruling, including faulting MEC’s competence in managing elections and the definition of “majority” to mean 50-percent-plus-one vote in the presidential election instead of the previous first-past-the-post.