Opposition are favourites on eve of Malawi’s presidential election

Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika faces an uphill task to win a second term in a second attempt after a court nullified his re-election in May last year. Polls for the new election tomorrow (June 23), project a victory for the opposition alliance.

Some 6.8-million Malawians from a population of 18-million are registered to cast their votes between 6am and 6pm at 9 291 polling stations across the country.

Lazarus Chakwera, the leader of the country’s oldest political party and biggest opposition, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), is widely tipped to win the elections after partnering with Saulos Chilima, leader of the newly-formed United Transformation Movement (UTM) and officially the country’s vice-president. The little-known Peter Kuwani, of the Mbakuwaku Movement for Development party, completes the list of candidates. He is currently polling at less than 2% of the vote.

Chakwera has appointed Chilima running mate and Mutharika has partnered with another 2019 presidential candidate, Atupele Muluzi, of the United Democratic Front (UDF), as both opposition and ruling parties seek to attain 50% plus 1 votes to win the elections.

In February, the high court, sitting as the Constitutional Court, nullified the 2019 elections, citing a number of electoral irregularities. Both Chilima and Chakwera had brought their own petitions against the election result to the court.


The Supreme Court later affirmed the decision, making Malawi the second African country after Kenya to nullify a presidential election.

But the results of the simultaneous parliamentary and local council elections remain valid, because they were not challenged.

Ahead of the new vote, opinion polls indicate that a majority of Malawians are dissatisfied with the general direction of the country.

A recent survey by the University of Malawi-based Institute for Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) revealed 87% of Malawians — regardless of party affiliation — say the country is heading in the wrong direction.

The same poll found that 53% of respondents expect Chakwera to win the elections, while 31% expect a Mutharika victory and 10% were undecided. Of those surveyed, 51% say they will vote for Chakwera, while 33% will vote for Mutharika.

Boniface Dulani, Ipor’s lead researcher, says an opposition victory is highly likely.

“Apart from the opinion poll, the president has hardly been on the campaign trail. The [opposition] alliance has spread out using its numbers to crisscross the country. The government has been embroiled in numerous corruption scandals,” Dulani said.

Joseph Chunga, a political scientist at the University of Malawi, said apart from the opinion polls projecting opposition victory, “over the entire campaign period, the opposition have outplayed the incumbent in terms of aggressively pursuing votes across the country. [Mutharika] stayed away from the campaign trail until the very end.”

But he said it was uncertain how credible the elections would be. He expects the opposition to monitor the electoral process carefully, especially given their concerns regarding the independence of the electoral commission.

Mutharika has been campaigning on promises of stability and development and accuses the opposition of being forces of anarchy, citing the violent demonstrations that plagued the country in the aftermath of last year’s disputed election.

The opposition is tapping into dissatisfaction among citizens. It is promising to create jobs and to end corruption and economic stagnation in one of the world’s poorest nations.

Mutharika came to power in 2014 after defeating rival Chakwera and then president Joyce Banda whose re-election was undermined by a huge corruption scandal in 2013.

Since the opposition rejected the poll results last year, Mutharika has effectively run a government under siege amid street protests that carried on for more than six months until the five judges of the Constitutional Court nullified the elections.

Mutharika has decried the nullification of the results as a “judicial coup” and sought to thwart the election process. He asked Parliament — in vain — to reverse the court orders, delayed funding for new elections and, most recently, attempted to fire the country’s two most senior judges.

Covid-19 is keeping European Union, Commonwealth, African Union and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa observers away from the elections.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Golden Matonga
Golden Matonga is an award-winning journalist, columnist and blogger based in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.

Related stories

No mention of Africa when it comes to US foreign policy

During pre-election debates in the United States, very little has been said on how they view one of the world’s largest markets — which, in turn, is determined to come into its own

A pan-African stand must be taken against political oppression in Tanzania

As the country prepares for elections, the president is misusing state machinery to undermine, subjugate and repress citizens and civil society organisations

Epic fail: Africa’s Fortnite battle

Forced onto the backfoot by poor ping and overseas servers, African gamers are getting creative in an attempt to play one of the biggest competitive games. In the second instalment of our gaming corner, we chat to some of the innovators

The Nigerian government is killing its citizens — again

‘Nigeria kills its people. Nigeria has always killed its people.’

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Elnathan John: Our merciful Nigerian father

“They say people disappear, young men with dreadlocked hair, with tattoos, or even just carrying a laptop in a backpack,” writes Elnathan John in a reflective essay about Nigeria.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Baby Awa: The miracle baby born on a boat fleeing...

More than 300 000 people in the north of the country have been displaced by militants who ransack villages and then burn them down.

Five suspects arrested in Senzo Meyiwa case

Police minister Bheki Cela announced on Monday that his team has arrested five suspects who were allegedly involved in the killing of former Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa.

EFF eyes municipalities ahead of 2021 local government elections

EFF leader Julius Malema says the party is preparing to govern in many municipalities from next year. It is also launching a programme to defend the rights of farm workers

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday