With the year coming to an end and reflections being made, Malawi has been named this year’s country by The Economist. According to the newspaper, “the most improved country is the one where people stood up for democracy.”
The southern African country is being lauded for upholding democracy in the previous election. The Malawian judiciary is also a force to reckon with.
Elections annulment – Judicial System
It all started with the annulment of the May 2019 elections by the country’s Constitutional Court. Incumbent Peter Mutharika had won with 38.6 percent of the votes. His primary opponent, Lazarus Chakwera, attained 35.4 percent of the votes.
The court sighted massive irregularities as the reason for calling for a rerun of the elections. The Supreme Court of Appeal later upheld the decision in May. Consequently, many said that democracy was at its best in Malawi.
Notably, the court delivered the ruling using a correct choice of words. They did not say the elections were stolen but instead said that the rigging evidence was so widespread that the results’ integrity was “severely compromised.”
The judges also directed Malawi’s National Assembly to consider recalling the electoral commission to enable Fresh elections’ smooth running. The directive meant the reformation of the Malawian democratic institutions. Besides, it translated to the expulsion of bureaucrats responsible for rigging elections. According to BBC News, this was “an important blow against a widespread culture of impunity.”
Lastly, the court declared the first-past-the-post system of electing a new president as unconstitutional. The judges instead advised that the winner needs to attain 50% plus of the votes.
Why was the judges’ decision a landmark for Malawian democracy?
The decisions by the judges brought to light the Malawian Judicial strength. In a continent characterized by corrupt judicial systems, Malawi played it safe.
The Economist reports that Malawian judges turned down suitcases of bribes.
Alternatively, the judges would have suggested changes to be implemented in the next election. Instead, they called for a rerun and proposed reforms that ought to be carried out during the rerun. The latter was a deviation from the norm.
Importantly, the judges’ decision portrayed Malawi’s new face, a new face of African democracy.
The election rerun saw the incumbent, Mutharika, ousted. His opponent, Chakwera, obtained 58.57 percent of the possible 4.4 million votes. This was termed by many as a victory for democracy.
Along with other observers, Malawian Human Rights Commission described the rerun elections as credible, free, and fair.
A political analyst, Sherriff Kaisi, told VOA that the results showed how many were tired of Mutharika’s term in the top seat.
Indeed, Malawi, being named as the country of the year, comes as no surprise. The Malawian feat is a reference template for the African countries with weak judicial systems.