President Peter Mutharika’s scheme has always been to frustrate the fresh presidential elections. But this is not unexpected for someone who has always believed he won the May 21 2019 elections. In his words, he won the elections ‘fair and square’.
It was for the same reason that he, alongside the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), appealed the Election Case ruling after the High Court sitting as the Constitutional Court nullified his victory on February 3 this year.
Several organisations, including Parliament, have since February 3 prodded Mutharika to do the needful to facilitate the holding of the fresh elections.
Parliament requested him to assent to some electoral reform legislations to align the elections with the 50% + 1 system. Parliament also asked Mutharika to fire all MEC commissioners for incompetence as determined by the court. Eight of the nine commissioners were already scheduled to leave MEC on June 5. At the top of the list was former MEC chairperson Jane Ansah whose contract was expiring in October.
Mutharika snubbed the requests in their totality. That was the first notable sign after the nullification that the road to fresh elections was littered with thorns and thistles. Mutharika is yet to assent to the laws.
A few weeks down the line, the quasi-religious body—the Public Affairs Committee (PAC)—also met Mutharika to try and reason with him to consider reliving Ansah of his duties as MEC chairperson so that a new MEC chairperson would be appointed in good time to oversee the holding of the elections. Mutharika was still unmoved.
Murtharika had several people in his plan to frustrate the elections. Ansah was one of them. The other is Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale. When the ConCourt determined that elections should be held within 150 days from February 3, Parliament set May 19 as the polling day.
But Ansah snubbed this date and instead set July 2 as the date for polling. That was around mid March this year. MEC went ahead to launch the electoral calendar with this date in mind. All stakeholders equally adjusted their plans to this date. After the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal (MSCA) ruling on May 8, Ansah turns round and says Parliament should set the date for the elections. She does not even have the courtesy to apologise to the nation that she misled the country when her commission snubbed Parliament’s earlier date of May 19. But also that it was illegal for MEC to set July 2 as the date for polling. Out of mounting pressure to leave the scene in keeping with her promise to do so if the MSCA upheld the ConCourt ruling, she finally bows out. An eminent legal expert has described Ansah’s handling of the elections as an embarrassment to the Judiciary. Shame is shameful. But as Ansah was bowing out, she has been shedding no shame.
Now with just about 10 days to the expiry of the contracts for eight commissioners, Mutharika writes the Speaker to inform political parties to submit to him names of people for him to consider for appointment as commissioners. With all due respect, this is too little too late. Mutharika is just showing he does not want fresh election to be held on June 23. Where was he all this time? After Parliament and PAC had reminded him about the expiry of the tenures for the eight commissioners, even his own right hand person at MEC—Ansah—informed him about the expiring contracts for all commissioners. Because Mutharika wants to balk the elections, he did nothing.
The request for political parties to make nominations at this point would have been OK if the fresh elections were not slotted within the 150 days of the courts’ ruling. But if Mutharika wants people to believe it is possible to usher into office a new MEC and hold elections as scheduled—on June 23—beware of another trap his own team has set up if the winner is not Mutharika. Kaphale who is Mutharika’s chief legal advisor has warned about the consequences of failing to hold what he termed “genuine elections”. He described the standard of genuineness and quoted several international protocols to which Malawi is party. Holding elections that don’t meet the standards of genuineness would open the door to a flood of litigation.
This is how time-wasting, through dithering, appealing the ConCourt ruling and clinging to the position of MEC chairperson has played out.
So far, the game plan—characterised by insolence and self-importance on the part of the schemers—has worked well for them giving them an air of illusion of success. The election can be delayed but not stopped. Mutharika should embrace the future with grace.