As the clock is ticking towards the deadline that the two highest courts set for the country to hold a fresh presidential election in 150 days from February 3, drama continued unabated this week.
And at the end of day, opposition Members of Parliament came out tops as they whacked the government to beat them at their own game in the House and push through June 23 as when the election must happen.
It started with President Peter Mutharika asking Parliament to reverse the courts’ orders calling the orders mistakes. He even appointed a new Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) that includes two commissioners from the old commission that was labelled incompetent by two highest courts in the land.
On Tuesday afternoon, the nation eagerly followed proceedings in the House and noted how the opposition MPs bulldozed and hurriedly set June 23 as date for the presidential election using a motion by Mzimba North MP, Yeremiah Chihana.
Then the government side brought its own drama on Wednesday by tabling in the House a constitutional amendment bill that they knew from the start had no chance of passing in the House.
They also knew the bill would not pass the presidential assent as President Peter Mutharika has already shown that he is not interested in any bills that talk about a presidential election that has been shoved down his throat.
That is why Mutharika is unrelenting in castigating judges and is not afraid to cross the path of anyone, looking at his decision to retain two commissioners from the old Mec although they carry a tag of incompetence.
The worry now among well-meaning Malawians is whether this shall end well.
How will the President’s brinkmanship and political games reconcile themselves with the orders of the Supreme Court that are cast in stone and must be complied with?
Talking of political games and brinkmanship, the legal analysts and scholars have said there is nothing wrong in the President’s decision of retaining Jean Mathanga and Linda Kunje from the discredited former Mec but a morality case can still be made against the decision.
It is a decision that irritates those that declared the old Mec incompetent and it includes the two courts.
It is not a surprise that the brinkmanship moved to Parliament this week with the government side and the opposition out-doing each other in the priority of things with the latter insisting for a date of the election while the government was dragging its feet, secretly plotting and each side looking at the trophy of State House.
At the end of the day, the events of this week show that the DPP-led government was bent on either delaying the presidential election or stopping it altogether and it is only a clever opposition with intelligent “soldiers” that has stopped it in their tracks.
If government side in the House really wanted the date of the election to be set on June 23 as it claimed in the bill, why did the government side not just go along with the Chihana championed motion that was indeed hurriedly passed on day and time deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo was sitting in the chair’s seat?
Clearly the constitutional amendment bill also requiring the President’s assent for the date of the election was dead on arrival knowing fully well that it needed two thirds majority which was difficult to get.
In the end, the opposition was right to quickly push through a mere motion to get things done and the purpose has been served—Malawians are going to the polls on June 23.
Malawians should not lose hope because progress was achieved as Justice Chifundo Kachale and his commissioners were sworn in on Monday.
On Wednesday, Mec issued a press release saying it will gazette June 23 as the date of the election although it is worried with the amount of work needed to be done to make this a reality and that it will engage all candidates on the same.
There is a breath of fresh air from Mec and long may it last.
On the campaign trail, things are getting hot by day with violence the only blip and on the rise.
The messages to the voters are replete with tribal undertones which should be worrying to those that want a Malawi that is peaceful and unified in nature.
Vice President Saulos Chilima being blocked in Machinga amid claims that those behind it were saying they do not want him in the district where former president Bakili Muluzi comes from, as he has not been saying kindly things about the former leader, is a shame.
This is not a good sign as Muluzi must remain retired.
Yes there is nothing that anyone can do about the fact that Atupele Muluzi is the former president’s son. Or that Atupele is the running mate to Mutharika.
Yet and sadly, with the nature of our politics, the father has also been in the firing line with critics questioning the Muluzi senior’s involvement in his son’s campaign.
In the final analysis, Malawians can see the Promised Land and a resolution of this crisis that has been with us for over twelve good months.
Opposition got it right and it will be a shame for the government to once again try more political games and brinkmanship that do not help the future of this country.