After what seemed like eternity to some people, the 45 day period which the Constitutional Court gave the Malawi nation within which to give its verdict in the May 21 2019 presidential election results case finally elapsed and come February 3, 2020; the five judge panel held its end of the bargain by delivering the highly anticipated landmark judgement.
The ruling, almost 500 pages long, determined that President Peter Mutharika was unduly elected and subsequently ordered that a fresh election be held within 500 days (from the day of the judgement). Not only that, the ruling further recommends some key refomrs on elections and also calls into question the competencies of those entrusted to run the election on the public’s behalf – Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) particularly its team of commissioners, epitomised by Mec Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, whose ouster from the commission Malawians, led by rights activists, have been pressing for in the aftermath of the tripartite polls, whose presidential results have now been nullified by the five judges.
Let me encourage everyone in the country to seize this moment as not only has it put to rest the uncertainty surrounding the presidency but it also heralds a fresh start for our country, and with it breathing a lease of life to the hard won democracy.
It is pertinent that each one of us (regardless of creed, wealth and tribe) respects and understands the daunting task that now lies ahead as per the determination of the court, which is to re-galvanise the country’s top political office.
It is imperative for every Malawian to now propagate messages of peace and unity while we try to pick up the pieces as the country embarks on a mission to rebuild the nation, which lately has been characterised by political tension and uncertainty following the election dispute.
Now to other imperative matters; my theory is that with the 50 plus one determination by the constitutional court, the best the two candidates who moved the court and came out smiling can do is to work together for the good of the country, which all of a sudden is tranquil. Prior to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, there were people that opined that the best UTM’s Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party’s Lazarus Chakwera could do was to form an alliance in they were to wrestle the grip of Democratic Progressive Party and Mutharika on the mantle of power. This did not resonate with the two, who went ahead to stand on their respective party tickets; and the outcome of that polling exercise is what has brought us to this point – It was a sham of an election.
Sticking with the issue of individualism, the two heavyweights also went to the High Court alone with their separate complaints regarding the outcome of the May 21 Tripartite Elections. It was only the court that ordered that the cases be consolidated and heard by the constitutional court. It is from that union that the two have emerged from the courts grinning from ear to ear.
Now, before they can go a mile puffing their own airs, I have a hunch that the interpretation of the courts to the effect that amassing majority means getting 50 percent plus votes is another cue the two need to pay attention to, in as far as exploring the possibility of forging a coalition is concerned. Indeed, a lot was said in the aftermath of the May 21 polls, especially assertions that the opposition vote was largely divided through Chakwera and Chilima flying solo.
If it were up to me, I would have ensured that this marriage of convenience which has seen them through the courts and won them the hearts of Malawians continues all the way to the next ballot (which is 494 days from now) and so far, it seems Chakwera is open to forming unions, if what he said at the MCP Headquarters during an impromptu rally on Tuesday is anything to go by. On the other hand, Chilima tried to be cautious with his words when he addressed the press on Wednesday, saying UTM would have to make a consensus on the matter as a group if alliance would be the best way to go.
But, let us not be too restrictive; there are no permanent friends or foes in the game of politics and who knows, perhaps we might just see either Chakwera or Chilima partnering Mutharika (Boy, now would that be a shocker!).
To the lady that has presided over an election whose management has been found to be wanting by the constitutional court, and did not even consider heeding the calls by the public to leave the stage for the mess therein; your honour, the writing is on the wall; it is time to go.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).