President Peter Mutharika and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) have ignored Vice-President Saulos Chilima with the President stating he cannot meet his estranged second-in-command following nullification of the presidential election result in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The electoral body, on the other hand, has said its chairperson Jane Ansah, her commissioners and chief elections officer Sam Alfandika will not resign as demanded by Chilima.
Presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani and MEC director of media and communications Sangwani Mwafulirwa stated their positions in separate interviews in reaction to remarks by Chilima, who is UTM Party president and was the first petitioner in the presidential election nullification petition that went the petitioners’ way.
During a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday, Chilima said Mutharika has not contacted him following the court ruling that reverted the presidency to the pre-May 21 status to coordinate and plan matters relating to the development and administration of the country.
But Kalilani said Mutharika had no reason to meet Chilima whom he had plucked from the corporate world where he served as Airtel Malawi managing director to be his running mate and eventually the country’s Vice-President following the pair’s triumph in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Mutharika and Chilima fell out mid-way during their five-year term and Chilima proceeded to lead the newly formed UTM Party which sponsored his presidential ticket in the annulled May 2019 presidential election.
Said Kalilani: “Meeting him for what purpose?” There is no reason warranting the President to touch base with him. Thanks!”
But Garton Kamchedzera, professor of law at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said in an interview that the court decision was non-negotiable; hence, Chilima remains the country’s Vice-President.
He said there could be logistical issues government might be undertaking to ensure there is transition between Chilima and immediate-past vice-president Everton Chimulirenji whose tenure has been annulled by the court.
Kamchedzera said: “Following the court ruling, Chimulirenji is no longer the Vice-President and if someone still refers to him as the Vice-President, that is contempt of court…”
From the political perspective, Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) executive director Rafiq Hajat contended that there are some stumbling blocks leading to the lack of commitment from Mutharika to meet Chilima.
Reacting to Chilima’s resignation calls for MEC commissioners and Alfandika after the court declared the institution to have demonstrated gross incompetence in the management of the presidential election, Mwafulirwa said MEC will make its official position on the matters raised by different electoral stakeholders.
He said: “The commission is noting all expressions and sentiments and at an appointed time we will speak out. It has a constitutional mandate and we will strive to deliver that to the best of our ability.”
When put to him that the court found the commission’s conduct incompetent, Mwafulirwa said: “Boss, no more comments.”
Besides Chilima, Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera, United Democratic Front leader Atupele Muluzi and Human Rights Defenders Coalition have also demanded the resignation of MEC commissioners and pave the way for a new team to manage the pending fresh election in 150 days. In the election nullification petition, Chakwera was the second petitioner with Mutharika, the declared winner, as first respondent and MEC as the second respondent.