Though my house in Zomba is just a stone’s throw from the main road through the city, it is usually very quiet at night. Last night, however, was an exception. Chanting, singing and general jubilation went on late into the night. During the evening the Malawi Electoral Commission had announced the official results of the re-run Presidential election held on Tuesday. As had been widely trailed, these revealed a convincing victory for opposition leader Dr Lazarus Chakwera who won almost 60% of the votes.
Today he has been sworn-in as Malawi’s sixth President since it attained independence in 1964. His electoral victory will very likely be one of the most remembered since it came after a year-long struggle to overturn the result of the stolen election of May 2019. It is the first time in the history of Sub-Saharan Africa that the result of a flawed election has been successfully challenged in court with the opposition going on to win the re-run.
At a time when many countries, even those that have enjoyed democratic government for centuries, are struggling to get democracy to work effectively, the case of Malawi is a sign of hope. It was first of all a popular movement that, peacefully but relentlessly, made it clear that it would not accept the result of a stolen election. Then the opposition political parties set about achieving justice by constitutional and legal means, remaining calm, dignified and determined. Then it was the judiciary that, against much pressure from the executive branch of government, demonstrated its independence. Both the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court had a unanimous bench to declare the 2019 election invalid, null and void. Then the Electoral Commission, the security forces and a host of public officials played their part, refusing to be politicized and working hard to ensure the integrity of the democratic process.
One other feature that should not be missed is that it has been a time when many Malawians have been praying for their country. Therefore as they make history they look on it as an answer to many prayers. Nor is it coincidental that as Malawians look for a new kind of leadership for their country they have chosen a well-known pastor as their next President. He has a daunting task in front of him but he knows that the prayers of many of his people are for him.