Malawi has been named country of the year for “reviving democracy in an authoritarian region” by the Economist newspaper.
The newspaper cites the nullification of the 2019 presidential election results that were marred by irregularities.
“The vote-count was rigged with correction fluid on the tally sheets. Foreign observers cynically approved it anyway. Malawians launched mass protests against the ‘Tipp-Ex election’. Malawian judges turned down suitcases of bribes and annulled it,” the Economist reports.
The country held a presidential election re-run in June and President Peter Mutharika was beaten by President Lazarus Chakwera.
According to the paper, this was not the first time Malawians have stood up for democracy, recalling a mass protest in 2012 when the ruling party’s elites attempted to circumvent the constitution to block the then Vice President, Joyce Banda, from acting as President.
“In 2002 a president died, his death covered up and his corpse flown to South Africa for ‘medical treatment’, to buy time so that his brother could take over. That brother, Peter Mutharika, failed to grab power but was elected two years later and ran for re-election,” according to The Economist.
Aside from the annulment of the country’s presidential results, the report also notes that the southern African nation is the only place where democracy and respect for human rights have improved since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Economist says Freedom House’s report that democracy and respect for human rights regressed in 80 countries between the start of the pandemic and September but only improved in Malawi.
“Malawi is still poor, but its people are citizens, not subjects,” the newspaper adds.