President Peter Mutharika’s plan to hold his first public rallies in the Central and Northern regions since his re-election, has attracted warnings from political scientists that he uses only reconciliatory language if he is to be welcomed.
Mutharika plans to hold the rallies this month, after holding similar ones in the Southern Region over the past two weeks, since the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections results were announced.
According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, the President is expected to hold the first development rally at Mgona ground in Lilongwe on Sunday, to be followed by others in the North.
But political commentators have warned in separate telephone interviews that Mutharika should avoid language that may worsen the volatile political atmosphere, especially in the two regions.
Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa said the President risks worsening the tension in the two regions if he utters defiant and non-reconciliatory messages.
He said: “I do not see any problem with the President going to the Northern and Central regions. But, on whether people will welcome him that will depend on the content of the message he will deliver during rallies.
“If the President will utter defiant and non-reconciliatory messages, that will likely create a problem for him. If the message will be that of arrogance, that will create tension in the regions. Otherwise, I want to believe that people in the two regions will welcome him.”
On his part, Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafiq Hajat observed that by planning the rallies, Mutharika wants to demonstrate that he is President of the nation and not a leader for only the Southern Region.
He said: “The President wants to go to these regions because this nation is split. Over 60 percent of the people did not vote for him and he needs to show that he is President for the nation.”
Since Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced Mutharika as winner of the presidential poll on May 28, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been holding nationwide protests to demand that MEC chairperson Jane Ansah should resign for presiding over flawed elections.
The demonstrations have in some cases been marred by looting and violence, particularly in the Northern Region where protesters have burnt public and private infrastructure, including police units. The Central Region, on the other hand, is believed to be the stronghold of opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima are challenging the May 21 presidential results, arguing they were manipulated in favour of Mutharika.
During his previous speeches, when he was commissioning the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) warships in Mangochi, Mutharika defiantly said he won the election and that MCP and UTM must accept defeat.
Commenting further on the planned rallies, another Chanco-based political science lecturer Mustafa Hussein said Mutharika wants to show he has a following in all regions.
But Dausi, who is also Minister for Homeland Security, argued in an interview that the rallies follow a pre-arranged programme. He said: “The President thought that he should do his rallies in phases. So, he thought of beginning with the Southern Region, then the Central Region and Northern Region. So, this is the right time for the President to hold rallies in the regions.”