Malawi: President-Elect Lazarus Chakwera Pledges to Uphold Malawians' Dream to Freedom and Prosperity

Malawi’s New President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera has pledged to lead the country to a better future free of greed and corruption, provided the citizens give him a chance to earn their trust and make his election a win-win for all.

Mr. Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party officially became President Sunday June 27 and is set to become the country’s 6th President after official results were released Saturday and incumbent Peter Mutharika conceded defeat. He was ushered in after a presidential election rerun on June 23, following the nullification of the 2019 presidential poll.

President Chakwera emerged victorious against incumbent Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party by 59% to 40%.

According to the Malawi Electoral commission Mr. Chakwera secured 2, 604, 043 votes against Mr. Mutharika’s 1,751,877. The other candidate, Peter Kuwani managed 32, 456 of the 4,445, 699 valid votes cast, representing a 64 per cent voter turnout.

Speaking at the Malawi square at an event attended by thousands of citizens, the President-elect noted that when the founders of Malawi struggled and attained independence in 1964, the dream was not merely  to be free from oppression but also to have a prosperous nation.

President Lazarus Chakwera acknowledges cheers from the crowd on Sunday at his swearing in ceremony. (C) Govati Nyirenda

“And when their children marched against the one-party state to birth our Democracy in 1993, the dream was not merely for us to be freed from tyranny. The dream that binds us together is for us to enjoy shared prosperity, not just freedom. For of what use is freedom from oppression if you are a slave to starvation? Or freedom from colonialism if you are a slave to tribalism? Of what use is freedom from tyranny if you are a slave to poverty?” He said  

Mr. Chakwera said it was an honor for him to be president and that, that honour was forged by the people’s desire and demand for change. He emphasized that he had accepted to serve the people of Malawi with devotion.

Brotherly display between President Lazarus Chakwera and his vice Saulos Chilima (C) Govati Nyirenda

“So, I pledge to run Malawi well, for that is the surest path to Tsogolo Labwino (better future), a path that has long been in ruins, riddled with the potholes of greed and corruption. In making this pledge, I am accepting this call to serve you with joy and holy fear, for I am duty-bound to God and all of you to give it my best’’.

He has said the time had come for the people of Malawi to arise from the slumber of their dreams and make the dream come true, noting that the new Malawi would be a home for everyone, including those that did not vote for him to prosper.      

“…We will pursue it, not just as servants accountable to you voters, but as stewards of the hopes of millions of children, born and unborn, who have no vote. With your help, we will restore a new generation’s faith in the possibility of having a government that serves, not a government that rules; a government that inspires, not a government that infuriates; a government that listens, not a government that shouts; a government that fights for you, not against you”.

Zodiak Group Editor and News Analyst, Daniel Mababa told Timescape in an interview that the mood in Malawi was largely celebratory because over half the population were feeling a sense of liberation.

“Generally, there have been celebrations in most parts of the country for the last two days, mostly in the centre and in the north, the areas deemed to be Mr.  Chakwera’s strongholds. In the south, which was Mr. Mutharika’s stronghold, the mood has been minted as expected,” Mr. Mabada said, noting that 2020 presidential elections could be the fairest and most credible election that the country had ever held.

“The credibility of this election is without question because of how the Malawi Electoral Commission handled the entire process. It was so transparent in the manner it handled complaints; they had also put in several safeguard measures. In addition, because the process was manual, there was no room for vote rigging. At every stage, there were political party monitors that had to sign and give consent that they agreed with what was obtaining on the ground…’’ Mr. Mabada witnessed.

Malawians at BICC President Lazarus Chikwera swearing in in Lilongwe on Sunday (C) Govati Nyirenda

The fairness of the polls was also attested to by the Malawi Human Rights Commission as it commended the Malawi Electoral Commission for demonstrating maturity, objectivity, and professionalism in the conduct of the elections.

The Rights Commission Chairperson, Rev. Patrick Semphere told Timescape that the Commissions found that the elections were free and peaceful.

“The elections were conducted in a peaceful environment and without serious logistical problems. MEC was transparent in the handling of electoral complaints and their operations,” he noted.

According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Malawians voted in presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections in May 2019 and following allegations of irregularities in the presidential election, the High Court annulled the results.

Uncertainty around the result sparked months of tension, which spilled over into clashes between opposition supporters and police. Although Mr. Mutharika was sworn into office on May 27, 2019, thousands of Malawians took to the streets June 20, 2019 complaining of fraud, leading to the historic ruling by the Supreme Court on February 3, 2020 ordering a re-run. The Supreme Court also rejected an appeal by Mr. Mutharika on May 8, 2020 and cleared the way for the June 23 rerun.  

 

The Court set aside June 24, 2020 for the election rerun. The Court also ruled that only voters and candidates who were registered during the May 2019 elections were eligible to participate in the June 2020 election based on the Supreme Court's ruling.

That Court decision made Malawi the second country in Africa after Kenya in 2017 to cancel a presidential election.

President Chakwara will be inaugurated on July 6. The ceremony would coincide with celebrations to mark that country’s 56th independence anniversary.

Malawi is the 123rd least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. The country is said to have scored 31 points out of 100 on the 2019 corruption perception index.