Business came to a standstill yesterday in the commercial capital, Blantyre, as the barometer rose for the May 20 Tripartite Elections with the opening of presentation of nomination papers by presidential hopefuls.
First to present his nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) officials was Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torchbearer Peter Mutharika who officially unveiled Airtel Malawi managing director Saulos Chilima as his running mate.
Mutharika and Chilima arrived at the Comesa Hall in Blantyre in an open vehicle and waved to thousands of supporters who swarmed the Chichiri Trade Fair grounds and the dual-carriage Masauko Chipembere Highway to witness the presentation ceremony.
In his brief remarks at the ceremony, Mutharika called for a free, fair and transparent election in which he faces 11 other aspirants, including incumbent President Joyce Banda.
“The elections this year are crucial for the future of the country. Let Malawians make a right choice fairly. I ask people not to manipulate the legal system to deny Malawians the candidate of their choice,” said
Mutharika after MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera had presented him with a certificate of candidacy.
Mbendera assured Mutharika that MEC is geared to hold a free, fair and credible election to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
However, Mbendera reminded Mutharika that elections are a competition in which no one participates with an expectation of losing. He urged the DPP candidate to confine himself to a civilised campaign.
“Malawians are tired of mudslinging and foul-mouthed electioneering. For a change, they want this election to be issue-based. I would like to urge you, Sir, to champion the cause for a clean campaign,” said Mbendera.
He also addressed the question of the green card, which Mutharika last week surrendered to the Embassy of the United States of America.
Mbendera said MEC sought independent legal advice from three distinguished legal practitioners.
After the presentation of the nomination papers, it took the DPP pair about one-and-a-half hours to get to the Protea Ryall’s Hotel in the Blantyre central business district (CBD) to address a press conference. Mutharika said he picked Chilima from a list of 40 possible names for running mate because Chilima has a background in business and is decisive.
Chilima, who said he is yet to leave his post at Airtel Malawi, said he wants to complement what Mutharika has and add value as a technocrat. Chilima holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College and is expected to defend his doctorate thesis in March this year.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of United Independent Party (UIP) president Helen Singh to present her nomination papers.
Singh, who started her speech with Christian and Muslim slogans of Hallelujah and Asalam Alaikum, said the winner of the forthcoming elections will be chosen by God and she expressed optimism that she was the chosen one.
Singh presented little-known business lady, Chrissy Tembo from Traditional Authority Mabilabo in Mzimba, as her running mate.
Meanwhile, MEC has announced that two independent presidential candidates, Damiano Ganiza and Sangwani Soko, are not presenting nomination papers, effectively ruling them out of the presidential race.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said both candidates on Friday indicated they would not file nomination papers.