Officials and experts are sounding the alarm as Malawi shifts to top campaign gear with giant rallies for an unprecedented presidential re-run despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The poor southern African country will hold polls in just under two months after the Constitutional Court overturned the results of last year’s controversial election, which handed President Peter Mutharika a second term.
Mutharika garnered just 38.5 percent of the May 21 vote but the Constitutional Court annulled the result, citing “grave” and “widespread” irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballot papers
Polling is due on July 2, but could be brought forward to June 23, the electoral commission said this week.
In a blatant defiance of a ban on large gatherings, thousands of elated supporters jostled and shoved shoulder-to-shoulder cheering on their candidates as they handed in their nomination papers last week.
Immediately after that, parties hit the road, attracting huge crowds.
Health Minister Jappie Mhango chided his colleagues on the campaign trail.
“Elections or not, we need people and we cannot be sending them to the grave because we want to win an election.
– ‘We’re being careless’ –
“We’re being careless. If the leaders themselves cannot even observe social distancing, who will be telling people …about the seriousness of the pandemic?” he said.
Coronavirus infections have been slowly creeping in Malawi and now stand at 63, including three deaths, since the first case emerged on April 2.
There is no lockdown but the government has ordered public gatherings to be capped at 100 people.
A court last month blocked the government from imposing a full lockdown because it had failed to announce any measures to cushion the vulnerable.
“We are really concerned with the gathering of people for political rallies,” said Health Ministry principal secretary Dan Namarika.
“We have seen huge gatherings, this is would defeat the … fight against coronavirus,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :