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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

43 Malawi Police Service

43 Malawi Police Service which was co-opted to suppress citizens‟ dissent during the Open/Third Term debate between 2002 and 2003. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has been generally unable to successfully prosecute offenders unless it suits government to do so. A fourth factor is the general intimidation and violence that characterise times of political contest. This is linked to the political elite‟s desire to amass more political power, perpetuate their stay in power and gain economic wealth. Newspapers in Malawi reported the intimidation campaigns mounted by the UDF‟s Young Democrats against supporters of the MCP in Lilongwe in the 1999 election. In the Northern Region campaigning was particularly vicious in the district of Karonga. It is in these mudded waters of political ambitions and intrigue that the mass media and parliament must operate. These two institutions have to navigate these waters aware of the fact that there is now a plurality of voices in Malawi. Nothing is clear cut for the citizenry and the rights of the people to a broadened level of participation can be trampled upon by the political parties represented in parliament. On the positive side, there has also been much interest in surveying the political culture of the Malawian citizens around the 1999 election. Erdmann, Patel, & Schweitzer (2004, p.6) argue that one of the most important ingredients of fully functioning democracy is a public “that is informed and who has the feeling that it can influence the political process and decisions through particular channels of accepted behaviour”. Summarizing the many interesting statistics of the surveys leaves an impression of a fairly robust democratic culture in Malawi. The public awareness of democracy is higher in Malawi (88%) than in any of the other countries surveyed: Botswana, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe (Bratton, Mattes & Gyimah-Boadi 2004). Erdmann, Patel and Schweitzer (2004) document a keen interest in politics (around 70% of the

44 respondent are reported to be interested in politics) as well as an increase in political knowledge from before the election to after. Nearly 60% believe that their community exerts an influence on political representatives and more than two-thirds believe that they, as voters, can improve the future by choosing the right leaders (Erdmann, Patel & Schweitzer, 2004, p.10). Interestingly, the surveys also found the democratic culture seems to thrive just as well in more remote rural areas as in urban areas, indicating that democratization is not just an urban phenomenon in Malawi. Another concern is that although only 10.6% of respondents in 2000 said that they had never been informed by radio, the number rose considerably to 42.9% with respect to newspapers. This drop in newspapers‟ readership is caused by the cost of buying a newspaper relative to earnings per month (Khaila and Mthinda, 2006, p.2). This could be a democratic problem because the only existing nation-wide radio stations in Malawi are controlled by the government. Chirwa and Patel (2003) found that the state-owned MBC has not given fair access or coverage to opposition parties. A broad over-riding concern is the state of Malawi‟s economy. According to Williams (1978) the Malawian economy prospered in the 1970s with the assistance of foreign aid and investment and grew at an annual rate of 6 percent. This growth did not, however, spur broad-based economic development. According to the World Bank, in 2002, agriculture remained the basis of Malawi‟s economy, contributing 40 percent of GDP and 90 percent of rural employment, while tobacco, the main cash crop, accounted for more than two-thirds of exports. Malawi‟s limited natural-resource base, combined with poor physical and financial infrastructure, a slow-moving bureaucracy and rising crime, has made it less able to attract foreign investment. Thus, Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 159 out of 162 countries on the United

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