Scenes of violence have featured in Malawi’s poll that is scheduled to happen within the next three weeks. On 3 February, the Constitutional Court in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, annulled the May 2019 election and ordered for a rerun within 150 days from the day of the ruling.

In the fresh election, the court also issued an order that the winner of the election should amass at least 50%+1 of the votes. This has led to new alliances among Malawi’s key candidates which has seen Vice President Saulos Chilima, third in the May 2019 poll, partner as a running mate to opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Meanwhile, incumbent President Peter Mutharika has chosen Atupele Muluzi, leader of the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) who was fourth in the May 2019 poll, as his running mate.

As campaigning for the poll is gathering momentum, scenes of violence that are a continuation of the May poll aftermath protests have started rearing their ugly head. On 7 May 2020, after submitting his nomination papers incumbent Peter Mutharika had his convoy pelted with stones in Ndirande township in the Southern city of Blantyre. His ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) blamed the opposition for paying people to orchestrate the violence in a region that Mutharika enjoys support. The violence that Mutharika was met with was celebrated on social media by opposition supporters who claimed that it was a sign that people were unhappy with Mutharika. Police arrested some suspects who were later bailed out by the Courts.

Three weeks later, on 29 May, opposition running mate Saulos Chilima was met with violence in the Southern district of Phalombe, a Mutharika stronghold, where a car carrying the media team on his convoy was smashed. Mutharika, in a statement, denounced the violence and the attacks while urging the opposition to desist from a mudslinging campaign which had seen opposition member who is also former President Joyce Banda refer to Mutharika as a drunkard.

Hours later, it was Mutharika’s running mate Atupele Muluzi who was targeted by violent protests in the Central region district of Dowa which is an opposition party stronghold. Muluzi was forced to cancel a stop-over rally he had scheduled to conduct in the district. He directly blamed opposition leaders Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima as being behind the violence. The two did not dispute the accusation. Later, Muluzi conducted a stop-over rally in another district in the same Central region.

As there has been trading of barbs in the Campaign period, Chilima has targeted his anger at former President Bakili Muluzi who is also Atupele’s father together with his son accusing the elder Muluzi of planning to assassinate him. At a rally on 31 May that the opposition held in the Eastern region district of Mangochi where Muluzi is still respected to date, Chilima was conspicuously missing just a day after alleging that Muluzi had put money on his life and had hired assassins once he was to step into the district.

However, four days later Chilima travelled to the district where he conducted stop-over rallies. No case of violence was reported. On Friday, 5 June, Chilima’s convoy was blocked by protestors when he attempted to address a rally in the home district of former President Muluzi in Machinga in the Eastern region. According to the protestors, they were unhappy with Chilima’s attacks on Muluzi whom they regard as a father figure of the area. They blocked the road so that Chilima could not access his campaign venue.

In an ugly turn of events, security detail on Chilima’s convoy fired at two people of which one was said that he was on his way to the Mosque for Friday prayers when he was caught up in the fracas. Reports have indicated that it was against advice from the Police that Chilima wanted to go ahead with the rallies in the district and to force his way, his security detail decided to fire shots at the protestors of which a stray bullet allegedly hit the man on his way to the mosque.

Meanwhile former Vice President Cassim Chilumpha condemned the attack on unarmed protestors by the Vice President’s security detail describing it as “frightening”.

MCP FOUNDER - Chilima, KAMUZU BANDA, WAS CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY

At a political rally, Chilumpha referred to a 2019 scenario in which protestors blocked the road for Mutharika which forced Mutharika to take another route in avoidance of a bloodshed if the protestors were to face off with his security detail. He also referred to the incident in Ndirande where no shots were fired despite the stoning of some cars on Mutharika’s convoy.

Running mate to Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi who come from the area where the unarmed protestors were shot also condemned the attacks. Muluzi referred to the time when protestors blocked him in Dowa and he just decided to cancel the rally other than ordering his security detail, similar to that of the Vice President right now, shoot at the protestors.

On Saturday, 6 June, Inspector General of Malawi Police invited summoned officers who were on the convoy of Chilima to report events of the day. The results are yet to be made public.

Malawi goes to the polls in three weeks on a day that is not known although the Electoral Commission suggested 23 June which is yet to be ratified by Parliament and eventually will await the nod of Mutharika who is still serving as President despite the nullification of the May 2019 poll. The Electoral Commission was dissolved on 5 June. However, new commissioners and a new Electoral Commission Chair were appointed by Mutharika on 7 June. They are expected to manage an election after being in office for only two weeks.

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