Malawi election chief calls vote 'credible'

Head of electoral commission says presidential election has been "free and fair" though president nullified it.

    The electoral commission said 99 percent of the voting was "trouble-free" and that the people had spoken [AFP]
    The electoral commission said 99 percent of the voting was "trouble-free" and that the people had spoken [AFP]

    Malawi's presidential elections were held in a free, fair and credible manner despite irregularities, the head of the election commission has declared as the country gears up for results from the disputed vote.

    "I can comfortably say this election was free and fair ... it was also transparent, it was also, in my assessment, credible," Maxon Mbendera  said on Thursday.

    The credibility of elections in the small southern African country has been thrown into question after anomalies discovered in dozens of the votes from over 4,000 polling stations.

    The troubles have spilled into the courts where the opposition Malawi Congress Party, whose presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera was running second in preliminary results, is seeking a recount.

    But the Democratic Progressive Party led by Peter Mutharika, who was leading the vote in early results, has teamed up with the electoral commission lawyers to prevent the 30-day extension for a recount.

    Looming deadline

    Admitting having come across evidence of "anomalies", the electoral commission chief said 99 percent of the voting was "trouble-free" and that the people had expressed their will.

    The elections body vowed it would continue to prepare to announce the presidential results on Friday in accordance with the law unless the court rules otherwise.

    "Whatever the court directs, that we will do," said Mbendera.

    By law, the commission is obliged to release the results within eight days of the vote and that deadline expires midnight on Friday.

    Earlier on Thursday, the court case had hit a snag after a judge initially appointed to hear it, Healy Potani, had to pull out because his brother is a member of the electoral commission.

    A replacement judge, Kenyatta Nyirenda, was later appointed and is expected to make a ruling on Friday.

    Meanwhile, President Joyce Banda, who was shown to be running third, last week called the vote "null and void", saying it was marred by "serious irregularities," and called for fresh elections. 

    Mbendera insisted "the outcome of the result does not really matter" and that  the process took place in full view everyone who cared to check it.

    The African Union has concluded that voting was conducted in a "largely transparent manner".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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