Malawi Elections: The true tale of losers and winners

“Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?” Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens

The Weekend Nation in Malawi reported that the Governor of Kano State and leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Nigeria, Rabiu Kwankwaso, declared in an interview with one of the publications there that what happened during the elections in Malawi would also happen in the West Africa nation—government would be deposed by the opposition.

He is quoted to have said: “In the 19 states, I don’t see any state where under free and fair election; people will go and vote for the status quo…They will be shocked. Nigerians will do to them what Malawians did to their government. We will teach them in 2015.”

The author of the article iclaims that “Nigerians are inspired by Malawi polls”. He proceeds to authoritatively declare (unashamedly on behalf of the Governor and probably ‘Nigerians’) that Joyce Banda is their yardstick following her loss as President to Peter Mutharika.

Banda (L) and Mutharika

Banda (L) and Mutharika

“…Nigerians will do to them what Malawians did to their government. We will teach them in 2015…” Absurdity indeed reared its ugly and evil face again in The Weekend Nation article because in the preceding quote, Joyce Banda is not mentioned! For Christ’s sake, Peter Mutharika is not talked about either nor is President Goodluck Johnson of Nigeria!

The viciousness with which The Weekend Nation attacks Joyce Banda raises many questions than answers. How does the newspaper create a whole 12-paragraph article on Joyce Banda from a mere “Nigerians will do to them what Malawians did to their government” expression? What extraordinary news value does a mere comparative expression made in Nigeria have that a reader in Malawi will scratch their head and wish to read The Weekend Nation repeatedly?

Two months and eight days have gone since Malawians lined up in their millions to vote in the first ever tripartite elections. That’s pretty a long time to fail to start thinking about something more progressive than Joyce Banda having suffered some ‘imaginable’ defeat.

From the article in the newspaper, it is reasonably clear there are still people around who do not believe that Joyce Banda decided to step aside as Head of State despite the shambolic nature that characterized those elections. There are some hallucinating DPP cohorts who are still haunted by the Joyce Banda legacy as Head of State to the point of repeatedly reminding the whole world that JB “never won; she lost”. Get over it, DPP; get over it  ‘author’! JB is no longer Head of State!

If the truth must be told, President Peter Mutharika did not win the presidential polls. He was ‘declared’ winner by some maverick Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission. Prior to that ‘declaration’, the electoral process was heavily chaotic, characterized by many court litigations and electoral violence for alleged vote rigging.

A respectable constitutional lawyer summed up the chaotic elections in the most moving manner. He said, partly: “After a major setback, everyone feels the need to move on, but moving on is not as easy as it sounds. For most Malawians who voted, moving on will be particularly difficult.

“According to the Malawi Electoral Commission’s unverified results, 63.4% of Malawian voters cast their vote for a presidential candidate who failed to win. That’s a total of 3,352,755 people whose hearts ached and whose voices were muffled into a deafening silence when the Electoral Commission announced Arthur Peter Mutharika as the winner of this year’s election.

“This was the longest election in Malawi’s 20-year old democracy, forcing some people to wait for 3 days to cast their vote and forcing everyone to wait for 8 to 10 days to hear the results of the election. While the long wait sweetened the outcome for those whose candidate was declared winner, it made the outcome all the more bitter for others. The vicissitudes of emotion have left many in a state of exhaustion”.

There may be no losers and winners in the May 2014. The elections were inconclusive; we could have hardly afforded another election! We had to move on. JB said, ‘thank you Malawians, you gave me support, give this other one support, too’.

Malawians have been able to cope with what happened, just as they have coped throughout life with losing greater treasures like a loved one, a job, a home, a friendship, or a President. What is difficult for them to cope with is the loss of trust in the integrity of electoral systems and the outcomes they produce. People can cope with seeing another team win a game or an election, so long as they don’t lose trust that the game was won fairly or transparently. In an election like the one we had in Malawi, no one must lose confidence or trust in the systems entrusted to facilitate the contest.

To lose confidence or faith is to lose too much, and this is the heavy price at which this election has come. As a result, millions of people are now asking questions that they never thought they would ever ask: Is my vote worth casting if the system says it is not worth verifying? Is God worth trusting if He did not answer my prayers for the system to work? Is the winner of this election worth respecting if he did not want his victory to be verified? Is good worth fighting for if the system is too corrupt or broken to make progress? There are no easy answers to these questions and no easy path of recovery from the post-election trauma that has triggered these questions.

Now, before the Judge orders a recount of votes in Lilongwe, they burnt a warehouse stuffed with ballot papers! They don’t want Malawians to know the truth!

 

*The author is a social and political commentators based in Lilongwe. He writes in his own personal right

 

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