Thursday, 21st September 2023

Malawi ruling party cries foul after presidential vote re-run

Malawi's governing party is pushing for a third presidential election, citing irregularities and intimidation in a vote re-run where unofficial tallies

Malawi’s governing party is pushing for a third presidential election, citing irregularities and intimidation in a vote re-run where unofficial tallies show the opposition leader beating incumbent President Peter Mutharika.

Voters in the southern African country went to the polls on June 23 for the second time in 13 months after the Constitutional Court scrapped a presidential election over alleged fraud.

The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called Friday on the electoral commission to annul results collated so far and declare the third poll as it questioned the credibility of the vote re-run.

Unofficial tallies compiled by public broadcaster MBC gave opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera a dominant 60 percent lead, with the incumbent Mutharika trailing back on 39 percent.

DPP administrative secretary Francis Mphepo said in a statement: “We wish to highlight several incidents that may potentially affect the integrity and credibility of the presidential election results.”

The party listed polling stations from which their monitors were allegedly excluded and said over 1.5 million votes had been marred by “violence and intimidation”.

“There is no doubt that these irregularities and malpractices will substantially affect the results in one way or another,” Mphepo continued.

“We, therefore, seek… a declaration that the presidential election has been inconclusive.”

‘Very credible’ election
There was no immediate reaction from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) but its spokesman Sangwani Mwafurlirwa referred AFP to a press briefing later on Saturday.

Mutharika, in power since 2014, won 38.5 percent of last year’s discredited vote in which Chakwera garnered 35.4 percent.

In February, Malawi’s top court found the election was marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

The landmark ruling made Malawi just the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.

Victory in the rerun will be determined by whoever garners more than 50 percent of the votes — a new threshold set by the court.

Some 6.8 million people were asked to vote between Mutharika, Chakwera and an underdog candidate, Peter Dominico Kuwani.

The MEC has until July 3 to unveil the outcome, although the announcement is thought likely to come this week.

Results from half of Malawi’s 28 districts had been tallied and verified on Friday.

“We have had a very credible election compared to the 2019 presidential election,” Malawian human rights activist Luke Tembo told AFP.

“The fact that people came out in large numbers to vote… has to be taken as a very strong message, moving forward, that Malawians will never allow their vote to be stolen.”