BLANTYRE. — Voting was peaceful in Malawi yesterday as people took part in a rerun poll five months after President Peter Mutharika’s disputed 2019 victory was annulled over rigging.
Counting of ballots began in the evening at the 5 000 polling stations and the results will be announced from the National Tally Centre in Blantyre. The Malawi Election Commission has eight days to announce the official results. Some 6.6 million people were registered to vote.
The election is much anticipated after the Constitutional Court early this year ruled that the May 2019 vote, won narrowly by Mutharika, was fraught with “grave and widespread irregularities”, including the use of correction fluid on results sheets.
It ordered new elections be held within 150 days of its February ruling.
The landmark verdict made Malawi the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.
“I am happy because this rerun is the will of the people. And with this vote, I just hope that the best person wins. The will of the people will triumph,” said Peter Chadza, 26, a businessman who arrived at a polling station in the capital an hour and a half before voting was due to start.
The day before the vote there was a spate of clashes in capital, Lilongwe, and the lakeshore town of Nkhotakota sparked by rumours of vote rigging.
Yesterday’s election was practically a two-horse race between the president and his main rival Lazarus Chakwera, who lost the May 2019 election by 159 000 votes.
Mutharika, now 80, won with 38.5 percent of the ballots against Chakwera’s 35 percent.
A candidate will have to garner more than 50 percent of the votes to be declared the winner — a new threshold welcomed by the Public Affairs Committee, an influential quasi-religious civic group.
“This election is unique. First, this election is born out of a court ruling, and second, they will follow the 50-percent-plus-one system,” the group said in a statement.
Chakwera, 65, enjoys the support of nine political parties in his bid to unseat the incumbent president.
A new electoral commission was appointed on June 8, with Chifundo Kachale replacing Jane Ansah as chairman. Last week, Kachale promised “the highest commitment of myself and the entire commission to deliver a credible election whose results will be acceptable by all stakeholders”.
Before the voting started the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called on “all political actors and stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections, while observing all preventive measures against the spread of Covid-19,” according to a statement issued by spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
A number of local and international organisations including the European Union, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, several diplomatic missions and the Commonwealth observed the elections. — AFP.