United Kingdom (UK) reputable newspaper, The Financial Times, has carried a story about Malawi political crisis where demonstrations continue since May 21 Tripartite Elections and the High Court sitting as Constitution Court is now being asked to scrub out the presidential outcome and order a rerun.
The Financial Times with a headline – Malawi’s ‘Tipp-Ex president’ Mutharika faces high court challenge– the paper says Mutharika’sre-election earned him the nickname “Tipp-Ex president”.
It says the “jibe” is a reference to the correction fluid that the opposition claims was used to alter of results with a vote that gave the 79-year-old former law professor a second term.
Malawi, one of world’s poorest countries, held elections on May 21 and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race. But in the Constitutional Court, UTM president Saulos Chilima (first petitioner) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera (second petitioner) want results of the election nullified. They are alleging that the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) mismanaged the polls, in which President Peter Mutharika was declared winner, alleging ballot-stuffing and the use of Tipp-Ex correction fluid to change votes.
Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has accused opposition leaders of making “wild claims” about a contest that it said was deemed fair by international observers.
The Financial Times report highlights that Malawi has gained a reputation for regular multi-party elections and smooth transitions of power since 1994 when former president Bakili Muluzi ousted Kamuzu Banda who had an iron grip of the country in one party dictatorship.
There have been allegations of fraud before, but nothing on the scale of this year, reads a report in the Financial Times.
The paper focus on post-elections wave of public protests triggred by evidence of widespread irregularities in the May presidential vote.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has swince urged politicians to show respect and restraint to one another to facilitate a smooth trial of the presidential election case
MHRC commissioner Martha Chizuma, who is also the country’s Ombudsman, in a statement seen by Nyasa Times said when hearing of the case starts, the commission expects that “every person shall respect the rights of others who may wish to witness the court proceedings in support of the party of their choice.”.
But currently, as former president Joyce Banda said in quotes reported by the UK paper, “Malawi is burning” and “what is happening is unprecedented.”
Boniface Dulani, professor at the Institute of Public Opinion and Research at the University of Malawi, said an election annulment would build on the Kenyan precedent.
“It would send a strong signal to the continent’s rulers that manipulating elections does not mean automatic passage to state house,” he said as quoted by Financial Times.
The UK newspaper also quotes Blessings Chimsinga, associate professor at the University of Malawi, saying the case was “make or break” for a public that had lost faith in the electoral process.
Any rerun, he said, would need comprehensive electoral reforms to be credible. Otherwise, he added, “it would be like putting new wine in old bottles”.
Meanwhile, demand form MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge at Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal to resign, still stands with threats of more protests.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has vowed to orgnaise more nationwide protests until Ansah resigns.
Defending herself in local media against accusations that election tally sheets were doctored, she said: “Correctional fluid, if you check in the dictionary, corrects errors. Tipp-Ex can be used for positive and negative purposes and that is for the court to find out.”
The crisis, according to the Financial Times has sparked volatility in the kwacha, the local currency, and led to the stagnation of an already fragile economy. Malawi has a nominal income per capita of $380, making it one of the world’s poorest countries.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :