Malawi held the presidential elections on 20th May 2019 which were nullified by the Constitutional Court on 3rd February 2020. The fresh presidential elections were held on 23rd June 2020.
1. Was 3rd February 2020 the first time in the history of Malawi for a national election to be nullified?
2. Was 23rd June 2020 the first time for Malawi to conduct a fresh national election?
The answer is to both questions is a big No!
The third cycle of Parliament in the post-independent Malawi, commenced in 1976 following the parliamentary elections held on 22 May 1976 . Each of the 70 constituencies had a maximum of five candidates nominated by at least two registered voters.
The nominated names were then submitted to the Life President of the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the Republic Dr. Kamuzu Banda who finally picked a single candidate for each seat to be declared a member of parliament.
Dr. Kamuzu Banda further nominated an additional 15 names to join the August House as legislators.
Barely after two years, Parliament was prematurely dissolved on 18 April 1978 before the 5-year tenure elapsed.
According to Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s speech delivered at the closing of the MCP convention on 29th October 1977 in Lilongwe, the main reason why he decided nullify the results of the 1976 parliamentary elections and abruptly dissolve Parliament was that he was exceedingly dismayed with the poor quality of debates in Parliament as most members of parliament were not able to express themselves in English as the official language of Parliament.
The fresh parliamentary elections were then held on 29 June 1978 with more stringent requirements on English proficiency.
Unlike the previous parliamentary elections held on 15 August 1961, 28 April 1964, 17 April 1971 and 22 May 1976 in which Dr. Kamuzu Banda had unilaterally imposed a candidate of his choice for each constituency, for the 29 June 1978 election, there was more than one candidate in 47 of the 87 constituencies who contested each other to win the seats.
Candidates ran unopposed in 33 of the remaining seats, and seven were left vacant as the candidates failed in the test for English proficiency. Incumbents were defeated in 31 of the 47 contested constituencies.
One may be keen to learn that Hon. Bakili Muluzi who later became the first democratically elected head of state in May 1994, was among the new legislators into the August House for the third cycle of parliament following the 29 May 1976 elections. Dr. Kamuzu Banda further appointed him to serve in the cabinet as Minister of Education.
Hon. Bakili Muluzi retained his parliamentary seat for Kasupe (now Machinga) during the 29 June 1978 polls having also taken over the positions of MCP Secretary General and Minister without portfolio from Hon. Rodwell Munyenyembe a year earlier on 30 May 1977.
Suffice to say, it was also as a result of the fresh elections held on 29th June 1978 that new figures emerged on the political scene from the academia such as Hon. Louis Chimango who was then a lecturer at the law school of the University of Malawi. In Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s first cabinet after these fresh elections, Hon. Louis Chimango was appointed as Minister of Local Government