by Daniel Mumbere
In Malawi, President Peter Mutharika’s government is still struggling to pacify the defeated and disappointed opposition supporters, nearly two months after Malawians took to the polls in the country’s tripartite elections.
Mutharika’s re-election has been challenged by opposition political parties and non-governmental organisations, in court and through street protests.
In this article, we’ll track 10 key events that have followed the announcement of poll results by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
1 – MEC announces Mutharika win
Mutharika was on Monday 27 May 2019 declared winner of the presidential election, having garnered 38.67% of the votes cast.
Lazarus Chakwera, of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), scored 35.41% of the votes, while Deputy President Chilima won 20.24%, MEC said.READ MORE: Peter Mutharika wins Malawi’s presidential election: official
2 – Opposition protests
Even before the results had been announced, opposition supporters had participated in demonstrations, protesting reported irregularities in the electoral process.
‘‘MEC’s decision to declare Mutharika as winner goes against the will of the people of Malawi. I reject these results,’‘ Chakwera said.
MCP’s Director for Youth, Richard Chimwendo,told local media that the party’s supporters would take to the streets to demonstrate against electoral fraud.
3 – Legal challenge
MCP also pursued a legal challenge to the poll outcome, saying there must be consequences for flouting electoral guidelines.
‘‘It’s an electoral system in which officers of the electoral commission can use Tipp-Ex (correction fluid) on results sheets from all over the country… and yet there are no consequences,’‘ Chakwera said.
The Constitutional Court has since ruled that the election dispute must go to trial after the case was referred to it by a lower court.
4 – Mutharika inaugurated
Mutharika was nevertheless sworn-in and inaugurated on 31 May 2019, using the occasion to call for unity.
“It is time to move on. There is a time to fight. There is a time to unite, to unite and develop this country,” Mutharika, 78, told thousands of cheering supporters packed into the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.READ MORE: Malawi opposition defiant as president Mutharika appeals for unity
5 – Chakwera takes oath as MP
Opposition leader Chakwera took up his parliamentary seat, despite the party’s position on the legality of election results.
The Nation newspaper said Chakwera “took his oath of allegiance and office … amid cheers from scores of party supporters who accompanied him.”
The Malawian electoral system allows persons contesting for presidency and vice presidency to simultaneously contest for parliamentary seats.
6 – Female speaker elected
Parliament then made history on Wednesday 19 June, 2019, when it elected the country’s first female speaker, Catherine Gotani Hara.
The MCP legislator won a closely contested poll on Wednesday beating former first deputy speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje who had been nominated by the ruling Democratic People’s Party, DPP.READ MORE: Malawi parliament picks first woman speaker
7 – Mutharika heckled in parliament
Mutharika was heckled and snubbed by MCP members in parliament as he delivered the State of the Nation Address on Friday 21 May, 2019.
Mutharika who then addressed legislators from his party along with a few independents, accused the opposition of trying to sabotage the economy and engage mercenaries to spread chaos.
Saying the economy would grow by 5% in 2019, Mutharika promised to continue with efforts to keep inflation and interest rates low, and comply with policy conditions on a $112 million International Monetary Fund loan.
8 – Protesters warned
Addressing a rally to mark the country’s 55th anniversary of independence on Saturday July 6, 2019, Mutharika said ongoing protests were “calculated to turn Malawi into a lawless state”.
“They want to create lawlessness so that they can take over this government. But they will only take this government over my dead body,” he said.
9 – More protests
The nationwide protests have been organised by a non-profit grouping, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which has rejected allegations of trying to topple the government.
Police on Sunday said nearly 70 people have been arrested after “criminal acts”, including looting and the stoning of cars and buildings during demonstrations on Thursday.
“So far we have arrested 68 suspects strongly connected to the looting and injuring of police officers,” police said in a statement.
Protest organisers are defiant and have vowed to go back to the streets calling for the electoral commission chief Jane Ansah, to resign.
10 – US endorses elections
Mutharika’s government was tacitly endorsed by the United States, when its Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo congratulated the country for organising ‘successful’ elections.
In a statement issued on Malawi’s independence day, Pompeo said ‘Malawi’s recent successful national elections underscore the nation’s commitment to our shared democratic principles’.