Malawi’s opposition appears to win presidential election re-run

Lazarus Chakwera

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – Malawi opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera has what appears to be an unassailable lead in a presidential election re-run, with 60% of the vote, according to a tally by state broadcaster MBC on Thursday.

But the electoral commission told journalists that it will take up to two further days to announce the result of the re-run of the May 2019 election, which Malawi’s courts cancelled owing to widespread fraud.

The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation said the tally was from all but three of 28 districts counted, and it gave President Peter Mutharika 39% of votes. The opposition alliance claimed victory for Chakwera earlier on Thursday.

A win for Chakwera would be a dramatic reversal of last year’s discredited result handing the presidency back to the incumbent, who has been in power since 2014.

“We are trying to be as thorough as possible. We expect to have the final results in 36 to 48 hours,” electoral commission chairman Chifundo Kachali told journalists late on Thursday.

Tuesday’s vote was regarded as a test of the ability of African courts to fight ballot fraud not uncommon on the continent, since Malawi’s judiciary infuriated Mutharika in February by quashing the result of the 2019 vote.

“With all votes … tallied, it is now clear that Malawians have resoundingly given (the opposition) … alliance the mandate to govern this country for the next five years,” a statement from Chakwera’s Tonse Alliance said.

“Malawians have at last reclaimed their destiny.”

A spokesman for Mutharika’s alliance did not respond to requests for comment.

The disputed win last year sparked months of anti-government protests, a rare sight in Malawi. There were fears of further unrest during an extended, tense wait for the result, although Malawians have so far been patient.

Former president Bakili Muluzi, whose party is in alliance with Mutharika, urged “those who will lose to concede and congratulate the winners,” to dispel the wait.

Earlier Kachale said the result was taking time to collate because ballots had to be transported back to head office from locations across the lakeside southern African nation.

The judiciary’s ruling against Mutharika, upheld by the supreme court, echoed one by a Kenyan court in 2017, which cancelled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election win. Both were surprising on a continent in which courts rarely flex their muscles against powerful presidents.