UTM and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are set to present presidential nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) next week despite not recognising the commissioners who managed the annulled May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The two opposition parties, which have formed an electoral alliance alongside six other parties, vowed in separate interviews that they would not relent to MEC’s efforts to frustrate them ahead of the July 2 2020, fresh presidential election.
The sentiments by the country’s major opposition parties come before the electoral body starts receiving nomination forms from presidential candidates next Wednesday and Thursday in Blantyre.
The exercise was initially scheduled for April 23 and 24, but MEC suspended all electoral activities following a 21-day botched lockdown government announced to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
MCP deputy spokesperson Ezekiel Ching’oma said, in an interview on Friday, that his party does not want the current MEC commissioners to preside over the fresh election, but they will not boycott any stage of the electoral process.
“We all know it is their [MEC] strategy to make us boycott, but that strategy will not work. We will participate in the whole electoral process up until Malawians are freed from the economic scavengers ruling this nation,” said Ching’oma, adding that the party’s position did not entail endorsing the current commissioners.
On his part, UTM publicity secretary Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said his party recognises MEC, an institution, and not the people, as such it will adhere to all requirements and electoral processes.
“We know they are doing everything to frustrate us but we will resist their efforts and develop a cocoon and participate in every electoral activity,” he said.
He explained that UTM could not boycott the activities because MEC would still proceed managing the polls with or without their participation as per the laws.
“Nobody will stop them because the court already ordered them to do this within 150 days and there is no law to stop them, so we are very mindful of the fact that they want to catch us on that side, but we will not be caught,” said Malunga.
The UTM publicist also questioned MEC for disregarding its own schedule after it postponed the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) and National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meetings planned for Thursday and Friday in Lilongwe.
“Are they really following the schedule? Now, if they start breaking what they announced, what does that mean? We know this is part of the frustrations, but we will not relent,” he said.
However, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa explained that revision of the nomination dates is what necessitated the shifting of the dates for the two meetings.
“These meetings were queued to come after the nomination process, so the change of the dates for nomination meant an automatic shifting for these two meetings. But the commission has planned to hold the meeetings on 12 and 13 May, respectively,” he said.
University of Malawi political scientist Master Dicks Mfune said opposition parties were in a tricky situation on whether to boycott MEC activities, because legally the commissioners were still in office.
He said: “So, these opposition parties are supposed to still participate in all electoral processes MEC is carrying out, but under protest. If they boycott they will be the losers because there is no law to back them.”
MCP and UTM are yet to unveil their coalition’s torch bearer, but it is highly expected that President Peter Mutharika will lead the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) alliance with the United Democratic Front (UDF) to defend his position after the Constitutional Court annulled his election in its February 3 ruling.
Meanwhile, former vice-president and leader of Assembly for Democracy and Development (ADD) Cassim Chilumpha has endorsed President Peter Mutharika as the rightful candidate for the July 2 2020 fresh Presidential Elections.
Chilumpha’s approval of Mutharika’s candidature was made on Friday in Blantyre during a media briefing his party conducted.
Chilumpha touted Mutharika as the only “respectable and right” person that Malawians should rally behind in the fresh presidential polls, according to a video clip trending on social media.
The former VP also hailed himself as one of the four remaining politicians that spearheaded the country’s democracy alongside Brown Mpinganjira, former President Bakili Muluzi and Ziliro Chibambo.
Chilumpa also branded opposition leaders as immature and not fit to assume leadership of the country for rushing to courts instead opting for contact and dialogue to resolve disputes.
Ironically, Mutharika has also been seeking solace in the courts by appealing almost every court ruling on the nullified elections case.
In an interview last evening, Chilumpha said it was his party that endorsed Mutharika and not him as an individual.
But reacting to the endorsement, University of Malawi (Unima) political analyst Mustafa Hussein said Chilumpha was not the first ex-VP to endorse a presidential candidate and his move would only make Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) followers feel good.
He said: “It’s only an endorsement which will be manipulated and make the DPP feel good but as regards the impact we are yet to see that.”
Hussein also said Chilumpha’s endorsement of Mutharika only sweetens his relationship with the ruling DPP.
Another Unima political scientist Ernest Thindwa said Chilumpha was no longer a political heavyweight with a recognizable following.
He said: “His endorsement of Mutharika, therefore, does not give the DPP-UDF coalition extra votes. At best, it is a symbolic gesture to the DPP-UDF coalition and in no way does it weaken the opposition.”
On his part, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) director of campaign Moses Kunkuyu said while the former Vice President was exercising his constitutional right it was surprising to see him declaring Mutharika as the only person to transform the country.
“He has been an advocate for an alliance to oust Mutharika prior to the May 2019 elections owing to what he described as ‘Mutharika’s failed style of leadership’.
“Again, throughout the Constitutional Court process [that nullified the 2019 presidential elections] he questioned Mutharika’s ‘victory’ and the credibility of MEC. It is this lack of consistency leads to loss of trust and credibility and unfortunately that’s the status my learned honourable is slowly dragging himself into,” he said.
MEC barred him from contesting in the 2019 presidential elections after the High Court order that he could not contest on the ticket of Tikonze People’s Movement (TPM) ticket, an alliance of several small opposition parties.