Emotions seemed to be drawn to breaking point in Malawi as the country nervously awaits the high court ruling on the recount of the 20 May election results. This was evident in the clashes between the police and supporters of the incumbent president, Joyce Banda on Friday.
The 20 May election was only the fifth election in Malawi since the demise of Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s one man rule in 1997. This heralded the beginning of new things in Malawi, chief among which was the advent of democracy and the proliferation of political parties. The last election, in 2009 had been won by Bingu wa Mtharika, who then proceeded to hand pick his then foreign minister, Joyce Banda to be his deputy president. There was a fall out much later between the president and deputy after Banda refused to endorse Peter Mtharika as his brother’s successor in the presidency. That then led to her departure from the then ruling United Democratic Front, which led to the formation of the People’s Party.
On the 5th of May 2012, Bingu wa Mtharika suffered a heart attack and died. According to the Malawian constitution, Joyce Banda took over the presidency. This effectively meant that the People’s Party entered this election with a sitting president but without an established grassroots party structure. They were contesting the election against Banda’s former party, now headed by her nemesis, Peter. They are the first tripartite elections that the Malawians have participated in since Kamuzu’s time. This means that the electorate was voting for local government, members of parliament as well as the president. It is against this backdrop that the current elections have brought about this dispute. According to the preliminary results on Friday, Banda was trailing the other two presidential candidates while Mutharika wais leading the poll.
The police in the southern town of Mangochi clashed with protesters who were demanding a recounting of the presidential poll as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ awaits the ruling of the high court on what should happen regarding the election. This follows the presentation of arguments by both parties to the hearing to which Judge Kenyatta advised that when the verdict ready, the lawyers would be advised. No elaboration was given, however.
The Electoral Commission of Malawi has stated that they have noted some anomalies in the election. However, the Chairman, Maxon Mbendera said on Thursday that the elections were free, fair, transparent and credible. He has threatened to release the results if no court order instructs him otherwise. In agreement with him, the leader of the Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwenda has added his voice to those pressuring the courts to order a recount.