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Sobering democracy lesson from Malawi

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
Lazarus Chakwera's political fortunes were revived by a court ruling that annulled last year's flawed election.

Last week’s events in Malawi should serve as a lesson for African countries that true democracy is not a matter to gamble with; it must be taken, handled and practised with seriousness. 

The tiny and poor southern Africa country held a repeat election in matters not so dissimilar to Kenya’s 2017 experience where the highest court ordered a repeat of the presidential election.

In Malawi, the first election which endorsed the incumbent Peter Mutharika’s  victory was invalidated after the constitutional court ruled there were malpractices. 

The country went back to the drawing board and agreed to level the playing field before the re-run.

Notably, Malawi’s situation was complicated by two major events: The resignation of electoral commission chairperson Jane Ansah a month to the poll re-run and the coronavirus pandemic, which has made the conduct of elections a tricky affair worldwide.

Despite these serious setbacks,  Malawians held a peaceful and convincing election which saw opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera soundly trouncing Mutharika.

In the election, the country has set an example for the rest of Africa by making a step forward in entrenching democracy in a manner rarely seen on the continent.

African countries must learn from Malawi that democracy is not a ping-pong game. It is a matter of people’s lives and livelihoods.

It is not just about panel-beating law statutes and holding of elections, it has more to do with the integrity, credibility and commitment to it by the various persons and institutions constitutionally mandated to oversee the expansion of democracy and its protection.

Indeed, the success of the Malawian election had a lot to do with the integrity of the electoral commission which did everything possible to win the trust of the people, in a difficult situation where even the famed international election monitors were largely missing.

It is fair to say that Kenya has a lesson or two to learn from Malawi in democracy building. That elections can be held in a tranquil atmosphere devoid of violence and loss of life. 

That a truly independent Judiciary can be the pillar on which the hopes and aspirations of a nation can be dependent upon.

And that a free and fair contest played on a level ground is the greatest ingredient  in an election. Kudos to Malawians.

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