Malawi: New President Sworn in Amid High Expectations

Dr Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi's new president.

Malawi's new President Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in Sunday in the capital Lilongwe, after he defeated two candidates, including former President Peter Mutharika, in the tightly contested presidential election rerun held last week.

There was jubilation from hundreds of people who gathered at the Bingu International Convention Center, in Lilongwe to witness Chakwera and his vice president Saulos Chilima taking the oath of office from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.

"I Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera do solemnly swear that I will well and truly perform the functions of high office of president of Malawi, so help me God,” the new president said.

The presidential election rerun was held after the Constitution Court in February nullified last year’s election, which gave former president Peter Mutharika a second term, because of massive irregularities

In the court-sanctioned polls, Chakwera, leader of the opposition Malawi Congress (MCP), was a candidate for the Tonse Alliance which comprised nine political parties including United Transformation Movement (UTM) led by former vice president, Saulos Chilima.

He ran against former President Mutharika, leader of Democratic Progressive Party, (DPP) who made an alliance with Atupele Muluzi, leaders of the opposition United Democratic Front.

A little known candidate, Peter Kuwani of the opposition Mbakuwaku Movement for Development party had no alliance partner.

Chakwera won with 2.6 million votes, according to results announced Saturday, while Mutharika came second with 1.7 million votes and Kuwani won 32,400 votes.

In his acceptance speech Sunday, Chakwera pledged to develop the country beyond the expectations of Malawians.

“So I pledge to run Malawi well, because that is the surest payoff that has been long in ruins, riddled with potholes of greed and corruption. And in making this pledge, I am accepting this call to serve you with joy and holly fear for I am duty bound to God and By God and all of you,”  he said.

Chakwera also appealed to those who did not vote for him, to not fear being neglected.

“I know that there are many of you who did not vote for me in this election. And perhaps the prospect of my president fills you with fear and grief, but I want you to remember one thing; so long I am its president, it will be a home in which you too will prosper,”  he said.

However, many Malawians say there is nothing more they are expecting from the new president other than meeting his campaign promises.

In their campaign messages, the Tonse alliance leaders promised the creation of one million jobs within the first year, reduction of prices of fertilizers by over 400 percent, and curbing corruption, which marred the Mutharika administration.

Political analyst Mustapha Hussein said it’s now time for the new president to start honoring those promises.

“What they need to do is fulfills their promises; put the machinery in place that will focus on the implementation on the manifestos, including job creation, reduction of fertilizers among others. I think this time around they know the cost of making empty promises,” he said

Patricia Kaliati, the general-secretary of the United Transformation Movement party a key partner in Tonse alliance,  told VOA the new government will even do more than what was promised during campaign period.

“Issues of infrastructure, education, health programs, issues of empowerment of women and men, youths and the status of Malawians at large which we will provide to individual person, than when he is or he is in her home, should be saying ‘yes I am in new Malawi which I was looking for,'”  she said.

President Chakwera is expected to outline more of his government’s development plans during his inauguration on July 6.

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