Malawi: Women Protest in Defense of Embattled Election Chairperson

Thousands of women marched Wednesday in Malawi in defense of commission chairperson Jane Ansah. The protesters said Ansah is being targeted with insults on social media because she is a woman.

Opposition groups, however, say she mismanaged the recent election in which President Peter Mutharika won a second term.

Seode White, chairperson of the Forum for Concerned Women in Malawi, organized the march supporting Ansah, though she said the women were not protesting for Ansah alone.

"They are also unhappy with the abuse that has spread to all of us women in the name of Dr. Jane Ansah," White said. "We are saying we are not tolerating it. It's enough. And we are saying Jane Ansah should not fall nor resign, she is standing. She cannot dance to the whims and wishes of the people who are disgruntled."

Speaking to VOA, University of Malawi political science lecturer Mustapha Hussein said that although the women have a right to demonstrate, the reason for Wednesday's protests is not convincing.

"In those previous [election results], demonstrations there were also women," Hussein  said. "And, secondly, those demonstrations are to do with elections and not a woman but because of what people feel were mismanaged elections."

Another political commentator, Sherrif Kaisi, supported Wednesday's demonstration, saying the insults flung at Ansah were too much.

"If you look at the social media, for instance like Whatsapp and Facebook, this lady has gone very traumatized kind of life. She has been abused; you know private parts are being said openly. People are writing quite a lot of things which is even against our own culture. So on that side, I would side with women to say 'yes,'" Kaisi said.

Opposition parties called for Ansah to resign after election results showed Mutharika narrowly winning a second term. The parties say she mismanaged the elections, helping Mutharika to win. The second- and third-place finishers are still challenging the results in court.

Officials from the Human Right Defenders Coalition, which organized the protests against the election results, say their actions have nothing to do with gender issues. They also say they will continue to demand Ansah's resignation.

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