If there is one thing President Peter Mutharika doesn’t want now: it’s the mention of “fresh election”, let alone the thought of participating in the one.
As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t like it either if I were in his shoes. I would not even muster the courage to believe I would win especially considering the situation on the ground: no visibility, no magnetism and demonstrable arrogance.
The president has virtually been reduced to either a defender of his incumbency or a defendant in court. Either way, winning has not formed part of his habits. This weakens him as it strips him all the accolades of a leader.
What the President and his team are now doing is going overdrive to hold on to power by all means necessary.
Elsewhere, this is where killings, extrajudicial arrests or deliberate legal battles are initiated to derail the process of things.
In Malawi, politically motivated killings have reportedly been witnessed, but we seem to have politicians who are prayerful and fearful of the consequences of so doing in this life and in the hereafter.
Attempts to make arrests have been effected with little deterrence. If anything, such arrests have only aided in exacerbating the situation.
Faced with growing certainty of an election that odds suggest he would lose, Mutharika is now seemingly engaging in last ditch attempt to foil the polls scheduled in 150 days which end in a matter of days.
It is becoming clearer, at least from a distance, that violence and legal battles are part of the DPP strategy going forward.
Firstly, to hear minister responsible for Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi state that members of the opposition that have fallen victim to acts of political violence deserve it and are reaping what they sowed is unfortunate and inflammatory.
At this juncture, the most appropriate approach is to handle the matter with sobriety. But like the proverbial toothless man who spilled sand in a buffet of roasted meat, the DPP politicians are in pain.
Power is given on trust. It is not an entitlement. If you act according to the interests of all citizens, you’re safe. If you divide and rule, you are likely to fall.
During the just ended week, a video sparking hatred against the Chewas by DPP MP Fyness Magonjwa also signified a deliberate attempt to wreck havoc by the DPP.
She intimidated chiefs, said all sorts of hate speech against the Chewas and spewed a lot more nonsense that she attributed to incumbency.
If meant to bring votes, why would the infantile MP pit tribesmen that are statistically few against the numerically superior tribes?
It just doesn’t add up how the DPP/UDF block has been blunt at being divisive more so as the elections became imminent.
Then we had their principal, Mutharika, a retired law professor, battling to belittle the law and the officers called to the bench to be the officers tasked with the interpretation and preservation of the laws.
He called on parliament to reverse the orders of the court to hold fresh polls.
This will surely fail. The institutions of a country cannot only be seen to be functioning when they work in favour of a certain individual or groups of individuals.
The ironic part is he has been threatening critics with treason charges. He knows there will be calls to remove him from office if elections are not held upon the lapse of the 150 days when his court-given mandate expires.
Mutharika knows he can’t easily win the fresh election despite all the talk of not being afraid. He just has too many battles to fight for his age.
As it stands, he would rather arrest all those challenging his legitimacy after the lapse of 150 days. The only way to respect the court order is to go to the polls.
He has obliged, grudgingly, on the processes of participating in an election he doesn’t want held.
He said it during the nomination papers presentation. He feels he is being robbed of an election he won, fair and square. He blames the judiciary and accuse them of being complicit in a coup plot. He now seek refuge in Parliament, an institution he calls Supreme, way above the courts.
Ironically, Mutharika has in a very subtle way initiated what could become a legal battle that may create legitimate reason to further delay the fresh elections. It appears like a strategic snare.
Mutharika has included among newly appointed commissioners people that were not supposed to be there, if courts and their rulings were to be granted due respect and consideration.
The law provides for him to appoint people from parties that have 10 percent of national parliamentary vote.
The same law talks of proportionality based on party representation in Parliament.
This indicates that no party was supposed to submit more than three names and thus, no party was entitled to have more than three of its nominees appointed as Commissioners.
The most ironic thing is the sheer disrespect of the law indicated in Mutharika’s contemptuous re-appointment of people declared incompetent by the High Court in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.
Linda Khunje and Jean Mathanga have been re-appointed out of malice and to provoke a fight. They are pawns in Mutharika’s battle to stick to power.
I have seen some senior MCP officials write on their Facebook pages: “We will challenge this …”. For now, no amount of challenging will do you good, fellas. The only way is to press for an election. Mutharika’s fall from grace will not come that easy.
Actually, he might be dangling the inconsistency deliberately to dare you into a fight or protests that could justify a state of emergency.
The only way to depart from the throne at plot number 1 is in a death bag, wheeled on a stretcher, off to the morgue. Otherwise, look at history: Kamuzu Banda, frail and weak, wanted to cling on to power despite growing unpopularity. Bakili Muluzi tried the third term then the open term to remain at state house but he gave up, eventually.
Nature saved Bingu the embarrassment of clinging to power but he was strategic to have planned to bring on his brother, Peter. Here we are, the younger brother is not willing to go. Even for Joyce Banda before him, leaving State House wasn’t the easiest of things.
The sad thing about second term presidents have little to worry about. But if truth be told to Mutharika, his arrogance, adamancy, disrespect for the law and the courts will cost him and his cronies, in one way or the other.
Mutharika is only creating a temporary comfort zone for himself and his cronies. In the highly unlikely event that he wins in the fresh polls, the opposition will have a basis to go to the courts he passionately hates and get the polls nullified, again
Or it’s his strategy to govern his last term by instalments?
Whatever the case, the appointment of the new Commissioners could be Mutharika’s last snare ahead of the fresh elections – the elections he understandably doesn’t want to hear about. The opposition needs wits and forbearance to manoeuvre around Mutharika’s snare.
He doesn’t care about the courts. He doesn’t win at court. He holds court rulings with contempt. And would you dare take such a person to court? Trust me, all Mutharika needs is time. One year down; four more to go before he completes his tenure as president. Ruling by instalments.