#GetToKnowAlgeria
July 5, 2016
#AfricanLeaders: Comoros
July 6, 2016

#AfricanLeaders: Malawi

President Peter Mutharika is the third democratically elected president of the Republic of Malawi since the country gained its independence July 6 1964. Mutharika was voted into power in May 2014, where he succeeded Joyce Banda[1]. Mutharika has been the president of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) since 2012. He currently also serves as the Minister of Defence and the Commander-in-chief of the armed and police forces of Malawi.

 Since he came into power, some of President Mutharika’s notable achievements have been decelerating the country’s inflation rate from 24.2% to 21.5%[2]. In addition to that, under President Mutharika’s leadership, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has resumed its aid to the country – after freezing its aid to the country due to a scandal in which government officials were accused of looting money, under the leadership of Joyce Banda.  President Mutharika has also supported the notion of diversifying the country’s agricultural production as opposed to only being reliant on the tobacco crops. In 2015, the Global Fund also committed $332m to helping the Malawian government fight HIV & AIDS and other diseases under President Mutharika’s administration[3].

There has been a shift from the heteropatriarchal institutional order under President Mutharika’s reign. In 2015, he signed a ban on child marriages into law[4]. Furthermore, the president has been able to suspend Malawi’s anti-LGBTI’s laws; albeit without going through the correct channels[5]. This can be seen as both alarming and something to be celebrated. On the one hand the President was seen as disregarding the separation of powers, yet, on the other hand, he prioritised human rights and equality.

Overall, he is not a president without criticism. When he came into power, President Mutharika committed to ending the Malawian norm of patronage which seemed to be prevalent in Malawian leadership before his reign. As a result of this, the president ended up only appointing 20 ministers in his cabinet. However, as time passed, this was met with scepticism as more “special advisors” were sent into different portfolios which led citizens to believe that he was no different to those before him[6].

He has also recently come under fire for what is perceived as apathy for the poor of Malawi, because while his government has committed to including relief measures, his response to the food shortage caused by the drought has also been to encourage the poorer population of the country to eat mice or grasshoppers[7].

There has been a great deal of citizen dissatisfaction around the country, with protests being led by the youth, religious and opposition leaders calling for President Mutharika to step down. It is important to note that when President Mutharika was announced by his late brother as the next presidential candidate for the DPP, this was met with disapproval. Those who did not support the president’s candidacy were then fired from the political party and so it comes as no surprise that President Mutharika won his presidency with only 36% of the vote[8]. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see the country’s next elections, which should be in 2018.

President Mutharika has tried tirelessly to affect positive change at a dire time. Malawi is currently undergoing an economic crisis and President Mutharika has arguably done his best under the circumstances. However, seeing the level of citizen dissatisfaction makes the possibility of a second term for him questionable.

 

[1] Wahman, M. 2015. The 2014 Malawi Tripartite Elections: Is Democracy Maturing? https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Wahman/publication/283569845_The_2014_Malawi_Tripartite_Elections_Is_Democracy_Maturing/links/563fb07a08ae45b5d28d327f.pdf#page=25 accessed: 04-07-2016.

[2] National Statistical Office Publications. 2016. Malawi Consumer Price Indices (CPI) Dashboard. http://www.nsomalawi.mw/latest-publications/consumer-price-indices.html accessed: 05-07-2016.

[3] Malawi Receives $300m Grant To Fight AIDS. News24. http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Malawi-receives-300m-grant-to-fight-Aids-20151022-2 accessed: 05-07-2016

[4] Malawi bans Child Marriages. 2016. News24. http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Malawi-receives-300m-grant-to-fight-Aids-20151022-2   Accessed: 05-07-2016

[5] Malawi’s Mutharika Calls for Gay Rights to be respected. 2016. News24. http://www.news24.com.ng/World/News/malawis-mutharika-calls-for-gay-rights-to-be-respected-20160108-2  Accessed :04-07-2016

[6] Gwede, W. 2016. Reshuffle at State House: Mutharika bloated League of Advisors costly to Malawi Economy. Nyasa Times. http://www.nyasatimes.com/reshuffle-at-state-house-mutharika-bloated-league-of-advisors-costly-to-malawi-economy/  Accessed 05-07-2016

[7] Let them Eat Mice, Grasshoppers. 2016. News24. http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Malawi-receives-300m-grant-to-fight-Aids-20151022-2 Accessed: 05-07-2016

[8] Malawi’s Mutharika Wins Disputed Elections. 2014. Aljazeera http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/05/malawi-mutharika-wins-presidential-election-201453021383487821.html Accessed: 05-07-2016