MALAWIANS GEAR UP FOR ELECTIONS IN MAY 2019
By Paul Ndiho
In less about two months voters in Malawi head for tripartite elections. Political observers are predicting a tight presidential race between President Peter Mutharika from the Democratic Progressive Party against his former Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement and Lazarus Chakwera with the Malawi Congress Party the main opposition party.
Campaigning in Malawi is underway. On May 21st, in addition to the presidency, voters are set to cast their ballots for Members of Parliament and local Councilors. The wealth and patronage networks of the three main parties are driving the country’s politics.
President Peter Mutharika, Democratic Progressive Party continues to tell his thousands of supporters he will continue to act on his election promises from his 2014 victory, to rid Malawi of endemic corruption, fix the economy and tackle violence against women and people with albinism.
Mutharika enjoys the incumbency advantage, opinion polls have forecast Mutharika’s ruling party to win, but regular allegations of corruption could hobble his campaign in the impoverished southern African nation where reports of government graft are routine. But the government denies any allegations of corruption.
Opposition and civil action groups claim that he and the ruling D-P-P received about $195-thousand from a contractor supplying food rations to the police.
This election pits Incumbent President Mutharika against his former Vice President Saulos Chilima. Political analysts say Chilima is seen as the biggest threat to Mutharika. Chilima quit the ruling party in July in protest of alleged corruption. The former ally turned foe has launched a series of bitter attack on the president and hopes to win power as head of a new opposition party United Transformation Movement.
Chilima told VOA in an interview that he no longer speaks to President Mutharika — and he alleges that corruption is worsening under the current administration.
Analysts say Chilima, 45, a wealthy businessman, could easily give Mutharika, 79, a tough battle. And technically under Malawi’s constitution, the vice president cannot be fired by the president, so he is still the Vice President.
Meanwhile, Former Malawian president Joyce Banda has dropped out the race for president and plans to ally with Lazarus Chakwera, the presidential candidate for the Malawi Congress Party, the biggest opposition group.
Her announcement could be a game changer and serve as a significant boost to the prospects of the main opposition party ahead of the elections. But critics have questioned the alliance saying it appears former president Banda is not politically loyal to any particular ideology. Lazarus Chakwera, claims President Mutharika has failed Malawians in many areas, justifying the need for a new leader.
“I am appealing to Malawians, this is the best chance we have to build a new Malawi together so that we have servant leadership, we have unity in the country, we have prosperity for everyone, and we are fighting and ending corruption, and everybody follows the rule of law.”
For voters in Malawi the presidential election is critical and strong leadership is vital. The nation is heavily dependent on foreign aid and is arguably one of the poorest countries on earth; over 50 percent of the country’s population live well below the poverty line. Agriculture accounts for one-third of its GDP, and 85 percent of its people survive on subsistence farming.