Candidates for Tuesday’s Presidential election in Malawi have ended their respective campaigns during the weekend according to the rules.
The presidential vote could extend the presidency of incumbent Peter Mutharika. But that is not guaranteed as he faces a tough challenge from two other candidates. Lazarus Chakwera heads MCP a party founded by Kamuzu Banda who led the government in an Autocratic manner. Banda’s government was known to imprison opposing voices and, in some cases, murdering opposition such as Dick Matenje and Aaron Gadama. Chakwera is said to be overly ambitious and has also purged opposing voices in the party such as Kabwila and many others.
President Peter Mutharika who is 78 years of age came into power in 2014 after winning the presidential election. Two years earlier his elder brother Bingu wa Mutharika died from heart attack while in power. Peter Mutharika has had struggles filling his older brother’s shoes who was a “Force of nature”. Bingu was so forceful he wrestled the leadership of African Unity from Libya’s Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi who was seeking unprecedented second Term and was bribing African head of states to support his bid. However, Bingu WA Mutharika did not have none of that. He demanded to take the Chairmanship of the African Union as he correctly stated in was Malawi’s turn.
Despite promising to deal with corruption just before he became president, Professor Peter Mutharika has faced many scandals of his own, many by prominent members of his cabinet. Malawi’s Anti-corruption Bureau, or ACB, arrested a former agriculture minister and two others linked to a corruption scandal involving maize imports. Malawi was importing the grain to avert food shortages after flooding and drought wrecked last year’s harvest.
ACB officials announced the arrests of former agriculture minister George Chaponda, along with businesswoman Grace Mijiga Mhango and Rashid Tayub, an entrepreneur based in Blantyre.
They were accused of illegal actions in the procurement of 100,000 tons of maize from Zambia by Malawi’s grain marketer ADMARC, the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation. Chaponda was accused of receiving $200,000 from a businessman who was under investigation for a multi-million-dollar deal to supply food to the police. Chaponda was later absolved of these charges.
His tenure has also witnessed food shortages, power outages and an economic crisis. Some have also questioned his health as late as last week when he cancelled scheduled campaign events.
Mutharika’s toughest challenge is coming from Saulos Chilima who was Mutharika’s running mate in 2014. Saulos Chilima was never a DPP leader until he was selected by Peter Mutharika. DPP Party leaders never accepted his position in the party and set to undermine him from day one. It was obvious to many observers that Peter Mutharika was not going to have him as a running mate this time around. However, the party appeared to have underestimated his ambitions and strength. I am sure they Party Leadership realise it is too late now to put the genie back in the bottle.
Disgruntled Saulos Chilima, a youthful 46-year-old has now set up the United Transformation Movement (UTM) party to contest the election. He has built enough following to be in serious contention.
The strongest opposition is being led by former evangelist Lazarus Chakwera who is 64-year-old. Lazarus Chakwera is leading Malawi’s oldest party, the Malawi Congress Party, into the election.
The Malawi Congress Party was in power from 1964 to 1994 during Hastings Banda’s cruel one-party rule regime.
Lazarus Chakwera was the leader of the party during the 2014 elections. He came second to Peter Mutharika during the votes and will be hoping to win this time round.
According to Jimmy Kainja, Malawi uses first-past-the-post system, meaning whichever candidate gets the most votes in the single round of voting wins. In the last elections in 2014, this allowed Peter Mutharika to become president with just 36%. In 2017, a special law commission recommended that the country switch to system that requires the victor to win a 50%+1 majority, but parliament rejected the proposal. This means that the same system is in place for 2019’s crowded race and it is likely that the victor will win with less than even 30%.
Malawians the campaigning is over, we have heard from all viable candidates. It’s our turn lets vote and may the best Candidate win!