, BLANTYRE, May 20 – President Bingu wa Mutharika took a comfortable lead on Wednesday in early returns from Malawi’s elections, in which he is seeking a second term and the first parliamentary majority for his party.
Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were ahead in both the presidential and the parliamentary races, according to independent radio Zodiak, which is accredited to release the results.
Results were in from 12 of the 193 constituencies early Wednesday, with DPP taking 10 and the other two going to the opposition alliance, the station’s chief editor Pilirani Phiri told AFP.
The DPP was created after the 2004 elections, when Mutharika broke away from the United Democratic Front of his estranged mentor, former president Bakili Muluzi.
After the split, Mutharika took fewer than one third of the parliamentarians with him, leaving him unable to pass major legislation and forcing him to fend off impeachment attempts.
The results announced so far were from central and southern regions, but Phiri said the opposition appeared to have lost ground in its traditional strongholds.
Mutharika has sought to shore up his popularity with an agricultural subsidy scheme to help subsistence farmers, who feed 80 percent of the population.
Memories are still fresh from a 2005 famine that hit five million of the nation’s 13 million people.