The Malawi Council of Churches has asked John Tembo, the leader of the main opposition Malawi Congress Party to accept the landslide victory of President Bingu wa Mutharika, secured in the 19 May 2009 elections - writes Frank Jomo.
"While we may appreciate some of Tembo's pains and grievances and share some of his concerns, we are of the opinion that not much, if anything, could have changed the overwhelming votes Dr Bingu wa Mutharika and his DPP amassed," church council chairperson Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe told journalists in the capital, Lilongwe, on 25 May.
The 75-year-old president, who pledged to fight corruption, polled 2.9 million votes, according to the Malawi Electoral Commission, against Tembo's 1.3 million votes. But the 77-year-old opposition leader, who has been beaten twice by Mutharika in the race, said he would contest results of the poll in court.
"The results were extraordinary and too good to believe," Tembo told reporters at his house in Lilongwe two days after the elections and when it became apparent that Mutharika was heading for a landslide win. "The figures the president is said to have amassed do not tally with the actual number of voters. There was massive rigging and my lawyers agree that we have a strong case against the Malawi Electoral Commission."
But Bishop Bvumbwe said that contesting the results in court would be a waste of time because it would not change anything. The bishop's standpoint is supported by some senior members of the opposition MCP who have demanded the resignation of their leader as they map a way forward for the party.
"Going to court to dispute the results is not the stand of the Malawi Congress Party, but that of Tembo as an individual. There is no need for us to challenge the results, rather, we should sit down and do a post-mortem and find out what went wrong," MCP spokesperson Ishmael Chafukira told the State-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation on 25 May.
The following day, the interfaith Public Affairs Committee said in a statement it believes the 2009 elections met the standards of "free and reasonably fair" elections.
The electoral victory of Mutharika, a former World Bank employee, was seen as helped by his management of the economy, which has registered an average annual growth of seven per cent since he took office in 2004 and his agricultural policies that have turned Malawi from a food importer to an exporter.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]