Mutharika, Muluzi, Chakwera, warn against rigging as Malawi decides on May 20

Leading candidates in the presidential race have warned against electoral fraud in the May 20 tripartite elections, calling on Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to ensure they deliver a free, fair and credible polls.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) torchbearer Peter Mutharika, United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Atupele Muluzi and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarous Chakwera who are the three main challengers of President Joyce Banda, speaking during the third and final presidential debate on Tuesday, warned against fraudulent polls.

They were responding to moderator Rev Patrick Semphere on a question that: “In the event that you’re not the winner, will you accept the results?

Peter Mutharika: Comments on his sexual orientantion
Peter Mutharika: We expect to be winners
Atupele Muluzi:
Atupele Muluzi: Rigging will bring catastrophic consequences
Chakwera: I am your man
Chakwera:Rigging, the Lord in heaven will not allow it

First to answer was Mutharika who sidestepped answering directly whether he would accept the results and restrain his supporters should they want to riot.

“We expect to be the winners but in the unlike event we don’t win, MEC must make sure that there is a level playing field and there is no rigging,” said Mutharika, adding “ let Malawi people choose who is going to be winner.”

Mutharika said Malawi “is on the verge of collapse.”

Taking his turn, Atupele said: “UDF also believes we are winning the elections. One of the most closest fought election and one of most important elections.”

“I join my colleague (Mutharika) in asking the Malawi Electoral Commission to ensure the process leading to and after the election is transparent, free and fair,” he said.

Atupele warned: “Any attempts to rig the elections will bring catastrophic consequences.”

He added: “Do not attempt to subvert the will of the people. Malawians will decide on the ballot box and Malawians will choose their next leader”

The UDF presidential hopeful said in “extremely unlikely” situation that “we don’t win this elections. We will accept the results if that is the will of the people.”

He stressed: “We must have a credible elections, we must have a credible results.”

MCP’s Chakwera also spoke against vote fraud but committed to accept the outcome of the elections if they would not be stolen votes.

“I have gone around this country speaking about one Malawi, one nation, one vision. I best represents the hopes and aspirations of Malawians. I am not be a season politician but I am not a recycled one. People must maintain peace that they must not harass anyone and that we are one country,” he said.

“If someone is planning to rig the election the Lord in heaven will not allow it,” said Chakwera, a former faith leader.

Chakwera in a follow up question from the moderator on the MCP’s chequered past, assured that Malawi will never go back to one party state as he represents a new generation.

“I do not have an axe to grind, I just want to serve,” he said.

However, some observers fear that candidates are focusing on fraud in an unscrupulous attempt to set the ground for complaints if they lose, and risk discouraging voters and discrediting the entire election process along the way.

The third and final debate which Nyasa Times monitored through Zodiak Broadcasting Service online streaming, was held at Victoria Hotel in Blantyre and focused on foreign policy, health and population, tax and intra-party democracy.

PPM president Mark Katsonga said Malawi should ensure to take a path of national unity beyond elections.

“Malawians are tired. I don’t see myself failing. There is no way you can take a failure back into government. I will take all these aspirants into my cabinet. That’s a serious offer. We could build a very strong powerful government,” he said.

New Labour Party president Friday Jumbe predicted that the winner will be declared with a minority vote and called for reform from electoral system from simple to absolute majority. The current electoral law is first-past-the-post, meaning that a president can win with one vote and less than 50 percent.

Jumbe’s idea of electoral law reform was supported by United Independent Party (UIP) president Hellen Sighn, the only female presidential candidate on the podium.

Petra’s Kamuzu Chibambo advises MEC to deal with electoral complaints with due diligence, saying it is important for credible elections.

Organised by a consortium of organisations among them Malawi Electoral Commission, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and chaired by Media Institute of South Africa (Misa-Malawi) with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and UKAid, the third debate was the final one ahead of the election.

Malawi’s 11 presidential candidates except President Banda of People’s Party (PP) took part in the debates.

The debate attracted Mutharika (DPP), Davis Katsonga of Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP), Atupele (UDF) George Nnensa who is leading the Tisintha Alliance, and Chakwera (MCP).

Others were People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) presidential candidate  Mark Katsonga, Kamuzu Chibambo of the People’s Transformation Party (Petra), Prof John Chisi of Umodzi Party (UP), Friday Jumbe of New Labour Party (NLP), James Nyondo of National Salvation Front (Nasaf) and Helen Singh of United Independent Party (UIP).

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