Malawi’s electoral chief resigns ahead of protests

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition had originally planned nationwide protests for today, intended to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairwoman

Malawi VOANews 1

Photo: VOA News

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition had originally planned nationwide protests for today, intended to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairwoman Jane Ansah and her fellow commissioners from office.

Amidst fierce international and domestic criticism over her perceived mismanagement of last year’s elections—which spawned months of protests and a flood of online petitions—Ansah unexpectedly resigned her post late last week. The move, which arrives a month before Malawi’s upcoming election cycle, is long overdue according to analysts.

The Supreme Court recently upheld a ruling that nullified President Peter Mutharika’s narrow second-term victory last May, citing enormous irregularities and ballot tampering. Although the late timing of recent developments has been questioned, both Ansah’s departure and the voided results are recognised as healthy blows to the power of the incumbency.

In the wake of recent changes, all eyes will be on Mutharika—who is expected to appoint a new contingent of supposedly neutral commissioners—in the run-up to the election on June 23. Ansah’s abrupt reversal of position and subsequent resignation could set a critical precedent within Malawi’s culture of political opposition, despite claims that her abdication was unrelated to popular protests. Expect the quality and transparency of the upcoming election to have important implications for Malawi’s democratisation prospects.

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