The contentious Tripartite Elections are now over with the release of official results and declaration of the winner by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). Professor Peter Mutharika was “declared” the winner and has since been sworn in as the President of the Republic of Malawi. This is the reality we must all come to term with, whether we do agree with the results or not. Despite all the challenges, arguments, complaints and accusations spread across the elections table, we now have a new administration that must put the political campaign behind and focus on dealing with the numerous challenges Malawians are facing.
However, this is not the last elections in the lifespan of our nation. As long as we stick to multiparty democracy, we are bound to have elections in near future as the constitution stipulates; every five years. For the sake of future elections and future generations, we must interrogate into the just ended electoral process so that we learn what went wrong and right. Did the will of people prevail?
When people woke up early in the morning of 20th/21st/22nd May to cast their vote, they felt the POWER to elect the leader of their choice. They had all the hope that their vote would be counted and help determine the outcome of the election. They never minded the long and delicate process that followed with the counting of the votes at a polling station and the tallying process at District and National tally centres. They went home hopeful that their vote would speak for them and score points in holding leaders accountable. They kept waiting for almost two weeks this time around unlike in previous elections when a winning presidential candidate would be sworn in barely a day after the voting day.
But is it the votes or the voters that determined the Presidential outcome announced in midnight of 30th May? Not in full. Based on over 260 complaints MEC received and the subsequent pronouncement for a recount, the final elections outcome could not be said to have been determined by the votes alone. When MEC announced the decision to do a vote recount amidst observations of “SERIOUS and GRAVE” anomalies like over-voting and manipulation of figures, a legal battle ensued. Court injunctions were obtained blocking MEC to do a physical audit of the voting process by reopening the ballot boxes on the grounds that the ballot boxes are not secure and claims that MEC has no legal powers to order a vote recount. Political interests collided submerging the interests of the voters, the citizens who hoped for their voice to be heard.
It was the court judgement by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda that finally hammered the last nail on the elections impasse. The judgement delivered almost one hour before the expiry of the mandatory eight days in which MEC must release the results vacated the injunction by one Friday Jumbe restraining MEC from doing a recount of the vote. It further pronounced that MEC has legal powers to do a vote recount as it may deem it necessary. But the judgement fell short of granting MEC an extension of days to do a vote recount and stuck to the 8 days that was due in an hour.
As expected, MEC looked well prepared and set to announce the results. The prepared statements and figures declared the winner of the presidential elections. The questions are: Did the actual votes count in these elections if MEC was damn sure a recount was necessarily for it to do a proper determination? If a recount was done, could the official result be the same? MEC was delayed to do a recount by the injunctions that were obtained in a court of law, why then did the courts NOT extend the time for MEC to do the recount? Was this legal battle staged in favour of one candidate not voters?
At the end of the day, it is MEC and the courts that determined the final outcome of the elections with MUTED voices from the voters. Will some stakeholders challenge the elections results based on the fact that a recount was already recommended by MEC? This is not to target the Mutharika administration but to have people’s votes count and give confidence to people and restore the integrity of our democracy.
One challenge for the Mutharika administration is to ensure that our democracy is genuine and that voters are not cheated to stand on queues while outcomes of elections will be determined by MEC and courts very far from where people cast their votes. Otherwise laws must serve and protect the interests of citizens including voters. It is a must that only votes should count in the next elections to avoid unnecessary tensions and fears.
May God bless Malawi and the New Administration!