Malawi’s president on Saturday called the historic rerun of the presidential election “the worst in Malawi’s history” but urged the country to move on peacefully as it awaits official results of a vote the opposition is poised to win.
Meanwhile, members of the Presidential Guard went to provide security for opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who led in the results.
President Peter Mutharika in his first public comments since Tuesday’s vote asserted that his party’s election monitors had been beaten and intimidated into staying away from their work.
“Strangely, the Malawi Electoral Commission has dismissed our complaints because our monitors were not there to report irregularities,” he told reporters.
The Malawi Human Right Commission, one of the observers, has said the election was peaceful and transparent.
A court overturned the original election last year won by Mutharika, citing widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on ballots. It was just the second time in Africa that a court has overturned a presidential election, following a ruling on Kenya’s vote in 2017.
Unofficial tallies compiled by public broadcaster MBC gave opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera a dominant 60-percent lead, with the incumbent Mutharika trailing with 39 percent.
Mutharika’s comments came after his Democratic Progressive Party (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 more than 1.5 million votes were 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.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).
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 reveal the results but they were expected to be announced late on Saturday or early on Sunday.
“We have had a very credible election compared to the 2019 presidential election,” Malawian human rights activist Luke Tembo told AFP news agency.
“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.”