BLANTYRE, May 24- Malawi’s President Joyce Banda on Saturday declared this week’s chaotic election “null and void” and called for a fresh vote, throwing the impoverished nation into crisis.
Banda, who has claimed there were “serious irregularities” with the poll, declared fresh elections should be held within 90 days but said she would not stand as a candidate, to “give Malawians a free and fair” election.
“As president I have used the powers conferred upon me from the constitution to declare the elections null and void,” she said in remarks broadcast on radio.
There were chaotic scenes at the tally centre in Blantyre when word went around that the poll had been nullified, with police ordering a shutdown of the tally centre.
Banda alleged people had voted multiple times, ballots had been tampered with, presiding officers arrested, and the computerised voter counting system collapsed.
Her supporters have alleged that her chief adversary Peter Mutharika — who is already facing pre-election treason charges — may be behind the irregularities.
They earlier said they would not concede defeat, after preliminary results showed her trailing a distant second.
With about a third of the votes counted Mutharika, 74, had 42 percent, while Banda has 23 percent, according to preliminary results announced by the electoral commission late on Friday.
Mutharika is the brother of late president Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office two years ago.
He allegedly attempted to conceal his brother’s death by flying his body to South Africa in a bid to prevent then vice president Banda from coming to power as the constitution decreed.