AFRICA/MALAWI - Covid-19 and election campaign for the presidential elections: tensions increase

Tuesday, 2 June 2020 coronavirus   politics  

Blantyre (Agenzia Fides) - "Tension due to the election campaign and serious episodes of violence are being registered", writes to Agenzia Fides the missionary, Anna Tomasi of the Franciscan Auxiliary Lay Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception (F.A.L.M.I.), that deal in particular with health, education, assistance in prisons in Malawi. The President of the Republic, Peter Mutharika, had ordered the confinement of the population due to the coronavirus, but the judiciary has collected the appeals of civil society by suspending its entry into force. Indeed, the restrictions would put the lives of the poorest at risk, given the absence of food aid from the government.
The missionary continues: "Everything has been suspended, it is not known when schools can reopen and numerous meetings can be held. Let's say that the epidemic is under control here even if the numbers of infections have increased. There are just over 300 in the whole Country". "Gatherings are prohibited in the Country with over 100 people, but parties continue to carry out crowded election campaigns, with thousands of supporters gathered in view of the presidential election".
The tension escalated when the President of the Malawi Electoral Commission Jane Ansah resigned one month before the presidential election. The vote on 23 June had been scheduled after the cancellation of the May 2019 vote due to "serious" irregularities. Ansah's resignation represents a victory for the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in 2019 against the government of President Peter Mutharika, asking for greater electoral transparency. In recent weeks, the Supreme Court of Malawi confirmed the previous ruling with which, in February, the Constitutional Court had canceled the victory of President Peter Mutharika in the last general elections, denouncing the "widespread, systematic and serious" irregularities recorded on the occasion of the ballot.
What has further aggravated the situation is the escape of some refugees from an isolation center set up in a stadium in Blantyre. According to local information, the police and health workers are unable to stop the fugitives due to the lack of adequate protective equipment. At least 46 of them were tested positive for coronavirus. (AT/AP) (Agenzia Fides, 2/6/2020)