MEC Commissioners and Chair Person Jane Ansah

If the Malawian public and especially those that call themselves politicians in opposition of president Mutharika’s presidency fully understood that the holding of a fresh election is not in Peter Mutharika’s interests, they would realize that they need to re-think their strategies as to how to effect a change of leadership in the country.

Strictly speaking, I would have thought that this was always an obvious point and that such a plan B was always somewhere up their sleeve, Plan A being the whole drawn out legal process to force the change of electoral commissioners at MEC and have the President sign the bills that parliament enacted following the constitutional court’s ruling on the electoral case.

It appears to me, however, that what I considered to be obvious has not been seen as such by those to whom the issue should matter the most. For this reason, perhaps it is necessary and important to highlight the issue in a manner that will leave no room for assumptions or equivocations, and also ensure that those leading in the charge for change are indicted for failing their followers and not doing what they should be doing.

What I am trying to point out, my dear Uncommon Sensors, is this: Peter Mutharika have no interest in having fresh elections held. As a matter of fact they do not want fresh elections and will resist them strongly, if not virtually make sure that they do not happen altogether.

Why? Well, Peter Mutharika and the DPP are not complaining nor do they have any problems with the current political status quo. He is the president and they consider themselves in power. 

Peter Mutharika

There is a saying in law that “possession is nine tenths of the law”. There is also a saying that “power is never freely given, it must be taken.” As soon as his electoral win of the May elections was challenged last year, Peter Mutharika and his team went into full war mode to defend his position as president, and to remain in power at all costs.

The first indication was in how fiercely he defended the win in the constitutional court case by allowing MEC to use the Attorney General that he had just appointed. Then it was in the conduct of the country’s affairs that left no room for doubt that this was a president that considered the win legitimate and without a need to approach the leadership of the country with caution in light of the court case challenge of his legitimacy. 

These sentiments and this attitude have only been cemented and entrenched after the ruling last February declared that the election was in fact a sham and fresh elections need to be held.

Since being declared winner, and in spite of the court declaring that victory as an abuse and an infringement of the political rights of Malawians, and therefore null and void, the president has proceeded to appoint a cabinet, then reshuffle it and appoint another. He has made numerous appointments to fill public positions in government departments and parastatal boards, and he has made changes at the defense force high command.

The president has also deliberately failed to appoint a new Inspector General of police to fill the position of the one that retired, opting to have the position filled in an acting capacity by an officer who is essentially a Democratic Progressive Party operative. This tactic seems have been employed in order to circumnavigate the requirement that the appointment of the Inspector General of police must be confirmed by the national assembly. Filling the position with a homeboy party cadet and keeping him there in an acting capacity ensures that he has his boy and parliament cannot do anything about it.

Then there came the refusal to obey the court’s and the national assembly’s recommendations to remove the current Malawi Electoral Commissioners, and also the refusal to sign the bills that will make fresh elections, as ordered by the court, possible.

What I am driving at here is that a person who behaves like this is trying to tell everyone that he does not want, let alone really care about having fresh elections, and neither does he really care about what the law and the courts say. He is in possession of the prize, and if you are going to take it away from him, you will have to think up some other ways than simply running to the courts, because he is not afraid of the courts.

There has been enough chatter and discussion about the fact that our laws in the country do not provide for the concept of an interim presidency, and that because of this lacuna in the law, to speak of Mutharika in the current political situation as an interim presidency is to fail to appreciate the law. There may be merit in this argument if the perspective is based on strict legal interpretation. I, however, would submit that the constitution and the laws of the country never envisaged a situation where the presidency would remain under challenge and not legally and legitimately claimed by anyone for close to a year- or even more as it seems likely to become! For this reason therefore, this unprecedented political crisis of ours needs to be looked at with legally innovative eyes, for if we fail to do that, we can easily end up with a president who, having failed to win a second term legitimately, continues to rule for a full second term and beyond, with full powers as Mutharika and others of his supporters believe he has, while courtroom battles rage to dispose him, and while all the time he keeps disobeying court orders and defying parliament.

All the while, the plunder, the corruption and the nepotistic leadership that does nothing but enrich the few will continue.

ConCourt Judges
justices Healey Potani, Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga and Redson Kapindu

I feel I need to repeat my point for emphasis. Mutharika’s behavior is the behavior of a person who has decided that he will remain president regardless of court orders and parliamentary decrees. The more worrying thing, though, is that the behavior of those leading in the efforts to try and dispute and stop him and throw him out of office is that of people who seem to think there only way to do it is through the courts – the very courts that the president is defying and disobeying.

It is time for a re-think and a change of strategy, because in my Uncommon Sense, If this kind of approach is all that Malawians have, we have then reached an equilibrium; a stalemate where a vicious cycle will continue on its way, and Mutharika and his cronies will let it run while they happily sip their rum and watch the feeble efforts that will ultimately result in keeping them in power for as long as they like proceed.

Mutharika can and will continue to frustrate all efforts to hold fresh elections because fresh elections are likely to remove him from power. He has zero interest in fresh elections if he can remain in power with relative ease, as he is managing now to do, without any serious opposition and even any court powers and proceedings to curtail of his powers.

Think about it. If  you were Mutharika and you were and insensitive, callous and heartless about the rule of law and about the wishes of the people, would you be interested in holding the very elections that would remove you from power?

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