17 May 2009

Malawian Presidential Elections on Tuesday

My default position on African elections is to support any credible opposition, just to increase the meagre number of peaceful transfers of power. However the current Malawian President is an economist (big selling point for me) who has promised to step down if he loses (or if he wins, after his constitutionally-limited second term). His main opponent is a 77-year old who was the right-hand man of dictator President-for-life Banda. No contest.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I was an ODI in Malawi from 2006-2008, so a few things:

1. Yes, Mutharika is an economist (although his PhD is from a diplomat mill in California). He does have some problems though, namely a recent tendency to persecute (non-violently) his political opponents. It just so happens that his main political opponents are corrupt and murderous sons of bitches, but that's no excuse. He also has a tendency to do very stupid unilateral things, all in the name of looking like a "Big Bwana"

On the plus side, his administration, while marked by the occasional problem, has made big strides in economic competency and a few good blows against corruption.

2. His main opponent, Tembo, was Banda's right hand man, and has been implicated in a number of political killings (he is the murderous son of a bitch I spoke of). His chances of winning have just substancially increased, because Mutharika's main rival, former president Bakili Muluzi, has just been told by the electoral commission that he can't run for a third term, so he's throw his weight behind Tembo. Together, in Parliament, these two opposition parties are a majority.

Muluzi is the corrupt son of a bitch of whom I spoke - his two-term administration was marked with outright theft, excessive government patronage, and economic mismanagement which led to soaring inflation rates and hunger. If you look at a time series of GDP per capita for Malawi, you can define his presidency by the huge slump of the 90s and early 2000s.

3. You shouldn't have a default position when it comes to elections, even in Africa! The pool of decent candidates is very small, so if you are lucky enough to have a good candidate in office, it's probably better that he stay there for a second term than get replaced by a wolf!

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