May 28 2020
The campaign season is back. Never mind, we are not yet sure of the specific date the fresh presidential elections will be held, but the fray is just there for all to pick who will lead Malawi.
We can’t run away from the fact that at the moment, we are in a crisis following the February Constitutional Court ruling that said fresh elections must be held within 150 days. The crisis arises because the Constitution provides outright that elections be held on the third Tuesday of the month of May after every five years. With the fresh polls, the dates remain unclear.
Things will be clear after Parliament which starts its meeting on June 5 concludes.
While we are at it, the campaign period is going full-throttle. The DPP-UDF Alliance is on the road. Although the candidate Peter Mutharika has engaged a ‘secret campaign mode’ according to Presidential Press Secretary and Spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani, his running mate Atupele Muluzi is scurring the length and breadth of the country for votes for the alliance.
On the other hand, the MCP-UTM Tonse Alliance is also on its toes, up and about to sell the populace the torch-bearers Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima.
So, like any campaign period the name-calling, mud-slinging, card-stacking and the glittering generalities is evident. You see both fronts posting pictures showing crowds at their rallies so that voters join the band-wagon of those following popular politicians. Our dear politicians do not forget that plain folk trick to woo votes where you see them claim they come from this or that village and can eat chips by the roadside.
One can only hope Malawians are now weary that politicians promise the moon, but very few, if any, deliver it. As a matter of fact, the only politician who promised voters the moon and delivered, in one way or the other, was American president Richard Nixon. Taken literally, it was during his rule that the first man stepped on the moon! With that, Nixon, plainly put, delivered the moon.
Listening to framing of the campaign messages from both fronts, you wonder how they are going to achieve the promises. For instance, when the MCP-UTM alliance says the price of fertilizer will be at K4 900 per 50 kilogramme bag, you question the logic of how the price will drop from the current K23 000. But while you are about to roll your eyes, the UDF-DPP bed-fellows come with another shaker: Fertilizer will be at K2 500! Only God knows!
This is the very reason campaign messages should be taken with a tiny pinch of salt. Tiny. You listen to any campaign message, take it with a little grin on your face. Little.
The campaign period, sadly, brings name-calling. It is a sad reality which politicians find very difficult to avoid. With the Constitution guaranteeing that what is said during the campaign cannot lead to criminal prosecution, I guess it is the politicians’ responsibility to watch their verbal diarrhea which takes away their decorum, if at all they have some.
Well, the Constitution does not draw lines. The Parliamentary and Presidential Eections Act does not say what hitting below the belt is. The law is quite hazy on how far politicians can go to expose each other’s present, past and, ay, future follery!
It is apparent that common sense must guide, but common sense is not so common among politicians.
As the campaign wheels roll, the wish remains: May the best team win, for Mother Malawi! And may the polls pass!