Malawi Political Standoff Shows No Sign of Abating

BLANTYRE - The political impasse in Malawi stemming from disputed May elections shows no sign of ending. President Peter Mutharika has offered to negotiate with the opposition, but opposition parties say the president is illegitimate and should step aside. Political tensions started rising in May when opposition leaders rejected election results that showed President Peter Mutharika winning a second term.

Since then, a civil rights group, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, has led protests pushing for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly mismanaging the polls. Ansah denies the accusation.

Authorities say the protests, vandalism and violence have affected the country's development.

Our economy has slowed down because even the revenue authority, has for months now, been not able to meet the targets in terms of collecting revenues because businesses have been affected. People's property has been damaged, government property has been destroyed, said Mark Botoman, a government spokesperson.

Botoman said the stand-off is likely to make the country lose foreign investments.

The situation we are facing in this country is scaring away potential investors. This country needs investors; this country needs economic advancement which we have already started building. It should be sustained. But with political impasse happening in the country, we cannot see our economy continue growing, he said.

Official results showed Mutharika winning the May election with 39 percent of the vote.

Runners-up Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement party challenged the results in court, alleging ballot-stuffing and the use of correction fluid to change votes.

Efforts to end the political stand-off have yielded nothing, and a recent call from Mutharika for negotiations with opposition leaders and civil rights organizations has been ignored.

Eisenhower Mkaka is the secretary general of the opposition Malawi Congress Party.

Look here, we have been very clear, we have been very consistent, we look at Mr. Mutharika as an illegitimate president. And currently we are in court challenging his legitimacy, said he said. What sense does it carry to start taking about negotiation?

Analyst Humphreys Mvula said the impasse would end only if President Mutharika acts above party politics.

The ball goes back to the president. This whole problem is about the president. He doesn't react to issues quickly and sometimes he believes that this issue will walk away on its own. So he has got to take up the realms and say 'Look I am the president can we talk?' Where necessary he should bring people to help him mediate, said Mvula.

Government spokesperson Botoman said officials are making efforts to bring all the concerned parties to the negotiating table.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition said it will continue holding protests until Ansah resigns from the electoral commission.

Source: Voice of America