In the past week, MEC completed the task of receiving and reviewing all nomination papers that were submitted by Presidential aspirants in preparation for the May 21 Elections. I congratulate MEC and all candidates that got approved for the coming electoral race. However, in the wake of this exercise, I have been greatly impressed by President Mutharika for playing true democratic politics which is unheard of in most parts of the world where democratic values are not yet entrenched in the culture of politics.
You see, while periodic elections are the bedrock of democracy because they give power to the governed to constantly check the mandate of those that govern them, they are by themselves not a sign of true democracy. Experiences in Latin America, the East and our own Africa attest to this fact. The reason is that true democracy can only flourish where the actors in the political arena are able to play by the rules of democracy and institutionalize them. These rules are fundamental values that define true democracy and paramount among them is tolerance.
Political tolerance creates a favorable environment where political actors are able to co-exist and compete with each other in a free and fair manner. Politicians that have successfully cultivated the virtue of tolerance look at their competitors as partners in the political processes. Unfortunately, most politicians in Africa and other global regions with failed democracies are intolerant. They despise competition, they believe in mudslinging, political witch-hunt and punishment of those that challenge or threaten their authority. And this is where Mutharika has beaten them all and stands out as a rare crop of African politicians and true democrats.
Remember that during the exercise of the submission of presidential nomination papers at COMESA hall, ten candidates successfully submitted their papers with the intention to wrestle power away from Mutharika and prevent him from securing a second term. Of the candidates challenging his second bid, Atupele Muluzi of UDF is his own cabinet minister and Professor John Chisi of Umodzi Party is the Board Chair of Medical Council. Both of these candidates hold appointed positions which they owe to Mutharika who appointed them. And he retains the power to dismiss them.
But Mutharika has not fired Muluzi from the cabinet. Muluzi continues to comfortably serve in the cabinet and Mutharika has not spoken ill of the young minister for deciding to challenge his presidency at the ballot. Neither has Mutharika dismissed Chisi from the Board for deciding to challenges his bid for the second term. Additionally, Mutharika is being challenged by his own state vice president, Saulos Chilima whom he never fired from DPP despite creating parallel structures and planning a coup within the party against his second term. Mutharika never fired Chilima. He resigned by himself and now he enjoys international travels, campaigns and still enjoys all benefits and accolades of a vice president.
It is also very important to remember that in the past five years, the Leader of Opposition, Lazarus Chakwera has never spared insulting and demeaning words against Mutharika. He has been so disrespectful of the president that at some point the Speaker of Parliament had to force him to withdraw his words. But not for once has Mutharika retaliated with the same measure of unkindness against the honorable Leader of Opposition.
For the first time in the history of our country, Mutharika has also managed to fund MEC in full with domestic funding. True democrats believe in the effective functionality of governance and political institutions that when left fragile, lead to a fragile democracy.
I am not surprised with Mutharika’s unique political style. Mutharika is a product of western democracy having spent much of his life in the USA where he did not only lecture but also had the chance to interact with great American politicians and involved himself in some crucial American politics. As a result, Mutharika is able to understand that true democracy can only thrive and flourish in a society where politicians make effort to cultivate the spirit and culture of political tolerance.
I am sure that when all is said and done, history will absorb Mutharika and judge him fairly as the first tolerant president of Malawi and a true democrat by world standards of democratic leadership.