Malawians are set to go to polls on Tuesday to elect their president, National Assembly, and local government councilors amid growing concerns of corruption in the current regime of President Peter Mutharika.
Consulting firm The Economist Intelligence Unit has predicted the incumbent president is poised to win again with a minority, but analysts are describing the election as too close to call.
Mutharika, 79, and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is facing opposition from two of his ministers — Saulosi Chilima (vice-president) and Atupele Muluzi (health minister) but his main rival is a former church pastor and the leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Lazarus Chakwera, 64.
Mutharika defeated the then-incumbent president and Africa’s second woman leader Joyce Banda in 2014. Banda has since pulled out of the presidential race and is supporting Chakwera.
“We are confident of carrying the day because we believe we have successfully implemented development projects we promised in 2014. Malawians have all the reasons why they should vote DPP back in government,” Nicholas Dausi, the ruling party spokesperson told Anadolu Agency.
Too close to call
However, political scientist Ernest Thindwa from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College said unlike previous elections, this time politicians and parties have been more issue-focused than character assassination.
“This means the election will be too close to call because the competition is too stiff this time than in 2014 and this makes a prediction of the outcome quite difficult. This is what democracy should be where results cannot be predetermined,” he said in a telephone interview.
Malawians will elect 193 members of parliament, 462 local government councilors, and the president. But what is provoking the voters in this election is growing concerns of corruption.
Capital Hill Cashgate Scandal or “Cashgate” — the theft of over $100 million from the government coffers uncovered in 2013 — draw much attention domestically and around the world, but the theft of public finances is deep-rooted in the civil service in Malawi.
Under Mutharika’s reign, there have been persistent reports of corruption involving his senior Cabinet ministers and party cadres.
In February 2017, George Chaponda, a former agriculture minister, was sacked for his involvement in a contract worth about $34.5 million to import 100,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia.
Corruption has since led donors to suspend aid to Malawi — estimated at $150 million a year.
Malawi’s Electoral Commission has since begun distributing ballot materials to 5,000 polling stations ahead of the elections.
The voting process will use a mix of manual and electronic methods. Although the voting will be paper-based, the transmission and the final tally of the ballots will be electronic. This is the first time the country will use this system.
The commission’s chairperson, Jane Ansah, has told Anadolu Agency that the country is fully prepared for the elections which she described as “rigging free”.
“We have been preparing for a while now and we can assure the country that we will be holding free and fair elections,” Ansah said.
According to the commission, 6.5 million people have registered to vote in a country of nearly 20 million.