Political violence is on the rise in Malawi as the country prepares for May elections. The victims are mostly opposition party members beaten by suspected supporters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. However, DPP officials have denied being behind the attacks, blaming misguided youth who aim to tarnish the party’s image. In response, Malawi’s electoral commission has threatened to disqualify any candidate using violence. One opposition party member, Henderson Waya, a member of the United Transformation Movement, was attacked by a group of youths two weeks ago when he and others were driving to a party rally.
Two people have been killed in pre-election violence in Bangladesh, according to police, as clashes between armed rivals left dozens injured. More than 100 people have been hurt in violence on the campaign trail since Monday, when candidates from the two major parties began campaigning ahead of the December 30 poll. Police on Wednesday said two supporters from the Awami League, the ruling party headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, died from injuries sustained in brawls with opposition rivals late on Tuesday. Mobs armed with knives and batons faced off at a rally in Noakhali, a southern district, where a pro-government demonstrator was seriously injured.
Street protests in three Asian countries — Cambodia, Bangladesh and Thailand — are a vivid reminder of the fragile state of democracy in many developing countries, particularly those that do not have independent judiciaries and professional police forces and militaries. While the immediate causes for the turmoil are different in each country, they share several shortcomings. The lack of sufficient democratic checks and balances in all three countries has undermined faith in elections and helped to create the conditions for civil unrest. Autocratic and corrupt political leaders have used government agencies, in some cases over decades, to serve themselves and their cronies.