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Malawians Hope Ruling Party Has New Governance Style

  • Lameck Masina

FILE - Newly elected Malawian president Peter Mutharika greets supporters after he was sworn in at the High Court in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2014.

FILE - Newly elected Malawian president Peter Mutharika greets supporters after he was sworn in at the High Court in Blantyre, Malawi, May 31, 2014.

People in Malawi say they expect in a change in the governing style of the Democratic Progress Party (DPP), which returned to power this week under a new president, Peter Mutharika. During the previous DPP administration, the country faced economic challenges after donors withdrew their aid, citing poor governance. The new president has promised that will change.

The challenges Malawians faced during the leadership of late president Bingu wa Mutharika included acute shortages of fuel, scarcity of foreign exchange and ever increasing prices of goods and services on the market.

This may explain why more than 60 percent of Malawians did not vote for his younger brother during last month's elections, which Peter Mutharika won with just 37 percent of the total presidential votes.

The new president directly addressed those concerns in his inaugural speech Monday. He promised Malawians a change in leadership style.

“Those of you who have been worried I can assure you that the DPP has changed. And therefore we have learned from the past, as I said at my brother’s funeral [two years ago] that maybe he made mistakes in the past, it was out of judgment and not out of evil. But of course we will make different decisions,” he said.

But he added that his administration will renew some policies of the former DPP administration, including initiatives for greater food production, development of rural areas, and empowerment of women.

President Mutharika takes power after the corruption scandal known as "Cashgate" and a disputed election that was challenged by the outgoing president, Joyce Banda.

Mutharika called for unity among Malawians in helping him to rebuild the country.

But human rights campaigner Timothy Mtambo tells VOA that it might be hard to fully trust what the new president says, because citizens were sorely disappointed by the administration of his older brother.

“For instance, during the first term in office of Bingu wa Mutharika, he had a lot of pressure from the opposition and delivered what Malawians expected," he said. "And the nation thought if they would give him full mandate with the majority, he will do better but to the expectations of the citizens it worked to the opposite.”

President Mutharika invited all 11 other presidential candidates to help him rebuild the country, promising to approach them one by one in the near future. He also said his administration will have a 20-member Cabinet, half the size of previous governments, to cut down on spending.

But political science lecturer at the University of Malawi, Ernest Thindwa, says Mutharika's inaugural address lacked seriousness on various issues.

“I do not think that really we are going to see significant changes in the way we have done our politics, in the way we have managed our economy. I mean there is nothing special and unique in the speech, and on that basis I am inclined to believe that there will not be significant changes in the way we run our government,” he said.

People on the streets of Blantyre who spoke to VOA had a wait-and-see altitude on how the new DPP leadership would differ from the previous one, which, for the most part, they said had let them down.
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