Malawi: Opposition's Knack for Rejecting Poll Results Breeds Bloodshed

Lilongwe — THE turbulent atmosphere in Malawi, worst of it the killing of at least two police officers and the death of a similar number of protesters, is the manifestation of the culture of opposition parties destabilising their nations when the results of elections do not go their way.

Violent protests led by the opposition are the aftermath of the May 21 presidential poll that incumbent, Peter Mutharika, won a second five-year term narrowly (38,57 percent) ahead of his main challenger,

Lazarus Chakwera (35,41 percent), and ex-Deputy President, Saulos Chilima (20,24 percent).

The atmosphere was tumultuous ahead of one of the most fiercely-contested polls in the Southern African country's history. Stakes were high as over 74 percent of the registered 6,859 million registered voters participated.

Allegations and counter-accusations preceded the elections and predictably, some individuals and groups within the ranks of the opposition were agitated.

While initially peaceful, in recent weeks some of the protests have become increasingly violent, forcing the uniformed forces to exert force.

Rampant protesters aggrieved by the economic and social situation have looted shops and attacked government buildings.

The latest killing of a police officer, who was stoned to death outside the capital Lilongwe last Tuesday and the death of demonstrators are the lowest points in a country hailed for its peace, maintaining that status after the Global Peace Index ranked it the third most peaceful country (behind Mauritius and Botswana) in the continent.

Dozens of protesters- including four individuals that have been charged with the murder of a policeman- have been arrested following the violent demonstrations.

The suspects have been denied bail in view of the seriousness of the allegations against them.

Pro-democracy activist, Osias Kapesa, decried the deaths and laid the fatal clashes on the opposition, including Chakwera's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Transformation Movement (UTM) of Chilima.

"Some of these parties made the environment rife for anarchy by making baseless claims that the poll will be rigged. What we are seeing now is the consequence of their allegations," Kapesa charged.

He noted a trend by opposition parties to incite tensions after losing elections.

"We have seen this happen in countries such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe in recent polls. The opposition only deems the polls fair if they win. This trend is causing unnecessary loss of lives to ordinary citizens," Kapesa said.

In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) infamously declared its candidate, Nelson Chamisa, as the winner of polls in August last year, a decision that proved not only false but fatal as six civilians lost their lives in running battles with law enforcers.

More than 50 people were killed in Nigeria before, during and after polls the opposition People's Democratci Party (PDP) claimed were rigged. On both occasions the opposition in the respective countries lost their challenges at the courts.

Malawi's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and UTM condemned the fatal violence but the MCP was mum on the upheavals at the time of publication.

Some foreign ambassadors urged the government to investigate the deadly violence.

"The violence has resulted in loss of life, damage to property and businesses and disruption to the lives of many Malawians," the diplomats jointly stated.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, voiced the organisation's displeasure at the violent protests across the country of an estimated 18 million people.

He urged the government and other relevant actors to urgently engage in a genuine and meaningful dialogue to address the political, social and economic grievances of the population in order to reduce tensions.

"Otherwise, there is a serious risk the situation will spiral out of control," Colville stated.

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