I am happy, I voted

Regardless of the outcome of the 2019 tripartite elections, I am still happy that I exercised my right to vote. I will also cast my vote in 2024.

Before reading this blog, let me make my positionality clear. I am 30-year-old male Malawian. My home villages are Kasiya, Lilongwe and Sawali, Balaka. Educated to postgraduate level. I am Christian, and a member of the International Christian Assembly (ICA).

Now that my positionality is clear, some of you are already making conclusions about who I voted for. Let’s see if your prediction is correct.

My elections story began early in 2018. When I was still not sure on whether I will take part in the 2019 elections or not.

I don’t believe that we have rational voters, or whatever fancy term people use. For me, all we have is a voter, I am not any rational voter. I am just a voter. Secondly, I am not aligned to any political party. I have always voted for the candidate who convinces me to vote for them regardless of their ethnicity, religion, political party, race, or gender.

In 2018, I bumped into an old friend. I was very excited to meet him. I have known this guy for years, and this was the first time seeing him in a suit. He was not the usual loud lad that I have known. Something was different about him. He was calm and collected.

Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Malawi Congress Party at a Political Rally in Blantyre
                   Lazarus Chakwera, President of the Malawi Congress Party at a Political Rally in Blantyre

In our chat, he mentioned that he is contesting in the 2019 elections for the parliamentary seat on the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) ticket. Now that, made sense.

He told me how he has been visiting people in his constituency to share his vision. He really looked like a shadow MP.

I decided to take advantage to ask him questions about the plans of MCP.

‘What are the plans of the MCP?’- I asked.

‘The President of the Malawi Congress Party, Dr. Lazarus M. Chakwera has been conducting political rallies where he has laid out the plans of MCP. If you want to hear about MCP plans, attend the rallies.’-he responded.

‘Yes! I have not attended any political rally.’-I admitted. This is why I am asking you to share the vision. As someone who is a member of the party, I believe you have information that you can share.

‘My friend! Attend MCP political rallies, and then you will hear our vision.’-he insisted.

I could sense that he was getting agitated by my questions.

‘Follow our president on social media and you can read the plans on his page.’-he said.

‘But you are here. You might as well share the plans of your party now.’- I insisted.

He proceeded to share with me the impressive statistics that show the numbers of people who attend political rallies. He didn’t forget to assure me that MCP will win the 2019 tripartite elections.

I changed the topic because I was very sure this was slowly becoming a debate and my good friend was getting annoyed by my persistence. I was asking not because I wanted to trigger a debate, but because I wanted to know the plans of MCP, and then decide on whether I must vote for MCP or not.

At the end of the chat, I wished him all the best.

This experience was now adding to the more reasons why I should not vote in 2019. The electoral flaws in the 2014 elections being the major reasons, and my belief that my doesn’t count.

                                  Saulos Chilima, President of the United Transformation Movement(UTM)

Fast forward to late 2018, Saulos Chilima, and others formed the United Transformation Movement (UTM). Chilima’s interest to contest rekindled my interest to participate in elections.  When the time to register for elections approached, I spared a few minutes to register. Thanks to the parallel registration, I managed to register for my national ID and voter registration. By this time, my vote was leaning towards UTM.

UTM made me register to vote. But I did not vote for UTM on 21st May. Not on presidential, parliamentary nor local government.  Why? Keep reading.

As a curious person, I started asking questions about UTM. I used social media mainly targeting supporters and members of UTM to shed more insights on a few areas. To my surprise, I did not get any response to my questions. All the comments I got focused on other issues, except the questions I raised.

One person wrote, ‘You have to know that UTM will win the 2019 tripartite elections.’ Now my question was not whether UTM will win or not, but rather, ‘what are the plans of UTM?’

Later, I wrote this post on Facebook.

‘Instead of spending time to convince voters that you shall win, how about you spend more time, making voters vote for your party.’ The response was, this is the strategy that is used to win in elections.

‘When you tell people you will win, then people vote for you.’-One supporter argued.

At this time, I was at 60% chance to vote for UTM.

Seeing that UTM had managed to do an excellent branding, I joined those who were asking for UTM to disclose the source of their funds. I found this question to be valid especially in a country where corruption, state capture and secrecy thrives. This to me was the test for UTM to prove their transparency. To my surprise this question was responded to with the usual political rhetoric.

Now, I started thinking, ‘We have seen political parties in power that are not transparent which has been detrimental to good governance, and the rule of law.  The political parties use whatever means to avoid transparency. Now, if UTM is not ready to be transparent now, what is the guarantee that they will be transparent once they become the ruling party?’

To add to my doubts were the number of cars with UTM branding that did not have any license plates; something that I, as a citizen was getting concerned with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their ‘Ana Adadi’ license plates. You and I have seen these cars and with such plates.

A collection of these and many others, now, started to make me revisit my decision to vote for UTM.

But I registered. So, what do I do with this vote? I mean I registered because of UTM. I was tempted not to vote, but I said, let me wait for the campaign period and the debates.

Many thanks to Zodiak Broadcasting Station, for organizing the running mate debates. I listened to all the running mate debates, and I was convinced that my vote would go to Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo.

                                   Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo, Making a Point during the runningmate debates

In my opinion, Mwenifumbo made sense during the debates; something that some supporters of other parties agreed. However, they were quick to mention that they would still vote for their party. This is the beauty of elections; being able to exercise your freewill and choice.

During the presidential debates, Atupele Muluzi did not make much sense. But I guess, the job Mwenifumbo did, kept my vote in his court.

An interesting thing happened, during the official campaign period as my vote swayed towards UTM again during the early days of the campaign. Why? Because of the UTM manifesto, and the time Chilima took to articulate the vision of UTM. This coupled with his work ethic and I being surrounded by die hard UTM supporters, they bought my vote again.

My vote was with Chilima until when he started to go beyond his vision and joined the mudslinging. I felt this was going back to the politics of name calling, insult showering, assassination of opponents’ character and misnomer. This honestly put me off. Because this is the kind of politics that we need to get rid of.

My next option was MCP, but the coalition with People’s Party (PP), and some statements that were made on the campaign trail also put me off. Why? Because there was nothing new. The promise it made and the utterances on political platforms did not match.

The day before the elections, I was not sure about who I am going to vote for. One thing I was sure about was that I am not voting for DPP. Why?

I at least had an idea about the people contesting for the presidency, but I had no idea about who was contesting for the parliamentary and local government seat in my area.

On the eve of the elections, I had chat with one friend, Luckia, who also said, ‘I am not decided. But I am voting.’ We had a long chat about the elections the following days. She gave me all the reasons why she would vote for and not vote for candidates.

‘…I would vote for DPP because of the community colleges…Chakwera because of his Hi5…UTM because of their good policies…and UDF because of the combination between Atupele and Frank…’-She said.

She also continued to say, ‘I wouldn’t vote for Chakwera because I am not sure he will deliver…UTM because I can see a lot of vengeance in the team…and UDF because he lost timing.’

On the day of the polling, I was very happy to see that three quarters of the polling stations opened on time, and people managed to cast their vote peacefully. This was a great improvement from the 2014 tripartite elections. We all know the chaos that we had in 2014, so I will not get into that.

When I arrived at the polling centre on 21st May 2019, I had to select a woman for local government. Why because she was a woman, and she looked younger. That’s all the information I had on this one. I wish I had more information, but this is all the information I had and I needed to vote.

I kept thinking to myself. With all this space of the ballot paper, isn’t it possible to have some extra information about these candidates so that we can make an informed decision? But I guess there is a reason why the ballot paper doesn’t have the rest of this information.

For members of parliament, I voted for the candidate with dreadlocks. Why? He had dreadlocks, and the other candidates claimed to be independent, but I knew they were not. So, I didn’t vote for them. I am tired of party members masquerading as independent candidates. Or independent candidates, who are independent until the highest bidder comes along.

When it came to the presidential, I voted for Atupele Muluzi. Why? Because of Frank Tumpale Mwenifumbo. And I knew well that he was not going to win. And yes! I gave my vote a losing candidate. This is the beauty of elections, choice.

After voting, I started following the updates like everyone else. I followed the mainstream media and social media. The voter tabulation glitches, the courts, and the announcement of results made me question if my vote really counts; a question I asked myself in 2014 as well.

Then I concluded that my vote counts. My vote counts before I vote. My vote counts after I vote. The only thing I need to do, is to participate in the post electoral process to ensure that all forces working against my vote to count, are dealt with and that I continue to enjoy my right to vote.

As people are saying, they will not vote in 2024, I will vote in 2024. Because our forerunners; men and women, old and young, worked to ensure that I exercise my right to vote. And I am not about to give up that right just because the system doesn’t seem to respect that right. If anything, I will join the men and women who are working day and night to ensure that this right is enjoyed fully by each Malawian.  I will join those who are calling for electoral reforms to ensure that my vote and your vote counts in deciding who governs the country at all level; presidential, parliamentary and local government.

Let me finish by reminding you my positionality.

Before reading this blog, let me make my positionality clear. I am 30-year-old male Malawian. My home villages are Kasiya, Lilongwe and Sawali, Balaka. Educated to postgraduate level. I am Christian, and a member of the International Christian Assembly (ICA).