In May, Malawi held its tripartite elections, with citizens voting for a new president, parliament and local government councillors. Approximately 5 million Malawians cast their ballots on May 21 in a closely-fought race. Peter Mutharika, the incumbent president and leader of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won another 5-year term by a narrow margin. The DPP also won the parliamentary elections held on the same day.

Mutharika received 38.5% of the vote according to the Malawi Election Commission (MEC), the electoral body in charge of organizing and monitoring the election. The 78-year-old incumbent faced strong competition from his deputy and Vice President, Saulos Chilima (who received 20.3% of the vote) and a former Baptist preacher, Lazarus Chakwera (who received 35.4% of the vote).  

However, Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have initiated a court case at the constitutional court in Lilongwe, claiming the DPP used correction fluid to alter the result sheets. Chilima’s United Transformation Movement has also joined the MCP’s legal battle. Last Friday, the court ruled in favor of opposition parties pursuing the case as protests erupted over alleged election fraud. The court set June 26 as the full hearing date.

Although Malawi has seen improved infrastructure and lowered inflation during Mutharika’s leadership since 2014, he has recently faced accusations of corruption and favoritism of his stronghold regions. Nicolus Dausi, member of DPP and former homeland minister, said about the electoral win: “We always knew that we were going to win because of the development President Mutharika has done in the last five years. We have another mandate for five years of development, peace and stability.”

The Malawian president, Peter Mutharika, arriving at a rally in Blantyre. Photograph: The Guardian, Thoko Chikondi/Associated Press.

The Malawian president, Peter Mutharika, arriving at a rally in Blantyre. Photograph: The Guardian, Thoko Chikondi/Associated Press.

Malawi is among the first countries in Africa to manage a peaceful transition of power from one ruling government to another post-independence in 1964. Since then, Malawi has relied heavily on foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. The country also suffers from extreme weather that has affected and displaced thousands of people in the past decade. Today, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and more than half of the country’s 17 million people live below the poverty line. Additionally, women remain seriously underrepresented in Malawi’s political sphere despite the commitment from political leaders to encourage greater female political participation.

A woman casts her vote at CCAP Primary School polling station during the Malawi Tripartite general elections in Mzuzu, on May 21, 2019. Photograph: Associated Foreign Press.

A woman casts her vote at CCAP Primary School polling station during the Malawi Tripartite general elections in Mzuzu, on May 21, 2019. Photograph: Associated Foreign Press.

Regardless of the outcome of the court case, Malawi’s President faces a significant responsibility to address the country’s pressing political, economic and environmental issues. Raising Malawi hopes for continued peace and renewed efforts to build better futures for all of Malawi’s citizens - particularly its orphans, vulnerable children, women, and people with albinism. 


Endnotes:

  1. 2019 Tripartite Election Results. Malawi Election Commission. https://www.mec.org.mw/elections/#/.

  2. 2019 Tripartite Election Results. Malawi Election Commission.  https://www.mec.org.mw/elections/#/.

  3. “Malawi’s Mutharika narrowly wins presidential race with 38.57% of the vote.” Reuters. https://reut.rs/2XgPtHh.

  4. United States Agency for International Development (USAID). https://www.usaid.gov/malawi.