Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Malawians vote in test for political stability

Malawians voted in presidential and parliamentary elections on Tuesday that could rekindle political instability in the southern African country, which has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

President Bingu wa Mutharika, standing for a second term, is favoured by foreign investors because of reforms that have helped bring billions of dollars of debt relief and annual growth of 7% for the past three years.

But he faces a challenge from long-time opposition leader John Tembo, who is backed by former president Bakili Muluzi, Wa Mutharika’s rival whose own attempt to run was blocked by the courts in a ruling that has fanned tensions

The election is a test of political stability in largely peaceful Malawi after a protracted power struggle between Wa Mutharika and Muluzi prompted a failed impeachment bid and allegations of a coup plot, unnerving crucial Western donors.

Food security is the top issue for Malawi’s 13-million people, two-thirds of whom live on less than $1 a day, and many voters credit the government’s fertilizer subsidy programme with helping to increase food production, to the extent that Malawi now exports the staple maize to its neighbours.

”I am voting for food in the country,” said market trader Chifundo Mvula, making clear her allegiance to the presidential camp despite voting in a traditional opposition stronghold.

Buoyant growth
The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast that Malawi will have the world’s fastest growing economy this year — after Qatar — but annual gross domestic product is estimated at $313 per capita and Aids has orphaned about one million children.

Political upheavals have delayed approval for state budgets and rattled donors, who provide more than one third of budget financing for the tobacco-growing country, which recently began producing uranium.

The opposition has raised concerns about the possibility of vote-rigging, and investors will be watching closely for signs of how Africa’s democratic credentials are holding up after polls in Kenya and Zimbabwe unleashed violence last year.

”So far voting is going well,” Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Anastasia Msosa told Reuters, as long lines of voters formed in the capital Lilongwe. ”If this trend continues we are projecting a huge turn-out compared to the last election in 2004.”

Seven candidates, including one woman, are standing in Malawi’s presidential election. One opinion poll done two months ago by the Afrobarometer reasearch group with the University of Malawi has tipped Wa Mutharika to win.

But the unlikely alliance of Tembo, a former leading figure in the government of late dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda, and Muluzi, who toppled the longtime strongman in 1994, could pose a challenge.

Wa Mutharika took office in 2004 following an election marred by violence and accusations of rigging. Muluzi stepped down that year after a failed attempt to change the constitution to let him stand for a third term.

Critics say Wa Mutharika has neglected the poor.

”The greatest challenges that the country faces in the coming four years are the fight against poverty, putting more people on free Aids treatment and consolidating the food security situation,” said political commentator Rafiq Hajat. — Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Mabvuto Banda
Mabvuto Banda works from Nairobi, Lilongwe. African journalist tweeting in my own capacity. Writes for Reuters, Inter Press, NewAfrican, and other leading publications Mabvuto Banda has over 10153 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

‘The children cannot cope any more’: Suicide in Calvinia highlights...

How Covid-19 has intensified the physical and emotional burdens placed on children’s shoulders.

Capitec Bank flies high above Viceroy’s arrow

The bank took a knock after being labelled a loan shark by the short seller, but this has not stymied its growth

More top stories

The convenient myth of an Africa spared from Covid-19

There are few, if any, studies to support Pfizer chief executive’s assertion that the global south would be more vaccine-hesitant than the north

Council wants Hawks, SIU probe into BAT’s Zimbabwe scandal

The cigarette maker has been accused of giving up to $500 000 in bribes and spying on competitors

How Alpha Condé overthrew Alpha Condé

Since the coup d’état, Guinea’s head of state has been in the custody of the military officers. But it was the president who was the primary architect of his own downfall

‘The Making of Mount Edgecombe’: A view of history from...

Indian indentured labourers’ lives are celebrated in a new book, Sugar Mill Barracks: The Making of Mount Edgecombe
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×