The Economist has named Malawi as its Country of the Year for the manner it handled democracy and the rule of law highlighted by the nullification of the presidential election and peaceful shift of power.
The London-based magazine which calls itself a ‘newspaper’ and operates in over 80 countries globally, also hailed Malawians as people who stood for democracy in the year 2020.
In its statement published yesterday, the publication cited the nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election by a five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court and power transfer from former president Bingu wa Mutharika who died in 2012 to is then estranged vice-president Joyce Banda as among factors that contributed to Malawi’s win.
The statement reads in part: “The  vote-count was rigged with correction fluid on the tally sheets. Foreign observers cynically approved it anyway. Malawians launched mass protests against the ‘Tipp-Ex election’.
“Malawian judges turned down suitcases of bribes and annulled it. A fair re-run in June booted out Mr [Peter] Mutharika and installed the people’s choice, Lazarus Chakwera.
“Malawi is still poor, but its people are citizens, not subjects. For reviving democracy in an authoritarian region, it is our country of the year.”
The paper said this was not the first time Malawians have stood for democracy as they did the same in 2012 after Bingu’s death and some elements in the ruling clique attempted to circumvent constitutional order to block Banda’s ascendency.
“In 2012, a president died, his death was covered up and his corpse flown to South Africa for ‘medical treatment’, to buy time so that his brother could take over. That brother, Peter Mutharika, failed to grab power then, but was
elected two years later and ran for re-election,” says The Economist.
Reacting to the recognition, governance commentator Rafiq Hajat described the award as “a singular honour to the country”, saying The Economist is worldwide reputable magazine read by decision-makers.
But he cautioned that this was not the time for Malawians to sit back and praise themselves for winning the award, saying in other sectors the country is not doing well.
Said Hajat: “I think economically we are in deep water because governance in itself doesn’t do anything to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
The publication said Malawi beat countries such as New Zealand, Taiwan, United States of America and Bolivia.
The award comes barely two months after the Constitutional Court judges who nullified the 2019 presidential election and ordered a fresh election won the 2020 Chatham House prize for upholding the rule of law and separation of powers.