Genuine Mutharika win reasonably doubtful: Malawi election 2014

Over Internet radio, I was listening to some of the election results coming out of Zodiak on May 21st. My initial reaction was to ask myself why the station would announce results when the voting had not yet been completed. It had been announced earlier that some polling stations had not received voting materials on voting day compelling an additional day of voting. I had thought it common sense that results would not be announced until and unless all eligible voters who wanted to vote had actually voted.

It did not take long, listening to the announced results, for me to notice something unseemly about the numbers. In the presidential poll, DPP candidate Arthur Peter Mutharika was leading in areas flung far from the so-called Lhomwe Belt, his party’s alleged stronghold. He was not just leading, he was cleaning up! He was opening impressive daylight between himself and any runners up. I said, wait a minute. Something doesn’t quite add up here.

Peter Mutharika

Peter Mutharika

Stigma from Bingu Years

I remembered how unpopular the Bingu regime was towards the tail end of its existence. Arthur-Peter Mutharika still carries the stigma of his late older brother’s unpopular presidential legacy today.

In that reign, the regime promulgated a tit-for-tat retaliatory policy against its political opponents some of whom it vowed to ‘smoke out’ of rat-holes. President Bing wa Mutharika, Arthur-Peter’s older brother, issued orders to police to shoot-to-kill demonstrators, which the police did in mass shootings that ended the lives of more than twenty demonstrators one July afternoon a few years ago. Some activists, including Poly student Robert Chasowa, were murdered having run afoul of the regime.

Those demonstrators that were slaughtered in July a few years ago carried placards featuring unflattering depictions of the dictatorship and sent pointed messages for the President to heed. Forex and fuel were hard to come by, and one routinely saw fuel lineups snaking endlessly into the horizon at filling stations. Even Bingu’s funeral cortege was boo-ed as it passed through some neighbourhoods towards his Mpumulo Wabata grave at Ndata.

In the electoral campaign just ended it was clear that Arthur-Peter Mutharika carried the stigma of his older brother’s unpopular presidential legacy. After all he had, himself, served under his older brother as cabinet minister. Arthur-Peter not only failed in every ministry he headed, he did so miserably. One recalls the academic freedom crisis at the University of Malawi while Arthur-Peter was Education minister, for example.

Given this background, a genuine win by Arthur-Peter Mutharika on the presidential roll is reasonably doubtful.

Manual Recount or Bust

Yet today this electoral commission wants me to believe that this candidate has somehow done better than, say, Lazarus Chakwera, a man with no political blemishes on his CV? As the State House Press statement of yesterday, May 28th shows, there were clearly massive rigging and administrative irregularities in this election and the result cannot be trusted. This fraud must be exposed and the perpetrators punished very severely to set an example for the future.

Moreover, unless there is a manual recount of the votes, the electoral commission should hold off any public announcement of winners and losers. Announcing the results of a fraudulent poll is the very antithesis of rule-of-law and genuine democratic practice.

In fact, the best solution is a redo of this entire exercise from scratch.

*The author, Ambuje che Tom Likambale, is from Balaka Township, Malawi

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