BLANTYRE, Malawi, Jun 24 – Malawi’s electoral commission appealed for “peace and calm” on Wednesday as it counted ballots following a historic poll to re-elect a president after Peter Mutharika’s victory was overturned.
Voters in Malawi went to the polls on Tuesday for the second time in just over a year after the Constitutional Court dramatically ruled that last year’s polls were fraught with “grave and widespread” irregularities.
Results from the May 2019 election sparked countrywide protest that lasted months, a rare occurrence in the impoverished southern African country.
It took the top court six months to sift through the evidence before concluding that Mutharika was not duly elected and ordered fresh elections.
The chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission, Chifundo Kachale, said tallying of the votes from 5,002 polling stations was underway.
“We appeal to Malawians to maintain peace and calm as the vote-counting continues,” Kachale told a news conference in Blantyre.
Mutharika has accused the opposition of inciting violence following isolated incidents which the police and electoral commission said had not affected the election.
“It’s obvious that the opposition is doing this,” he told reporters after voting in Blantyre, claiming some of his party monitors were “chased away, some were beaten”.
“It’s obviously people that are afraid of the will of the people that are engaging in these barbaric acts,” he alleged.
Mutharika, 79, did not take the decision of the constitutional court lightly when it overturned last year’s poll.
He accused judges of working with the opposition to steal the election through what he dubbed a “judicial coup d’etat”.
He had narrowly won the now-discredited election with 38.5 percent of the ballots, beating his closest rival Lazarus Chakwera, 65, by just 159,000 votes .
Victory in the rerun will be determined by whoever garners more than 50 percent of the votes – a new threshold set by the top court.
Some 6.8 million people were asked to vote between Mutharika, Chakwera and an underdog candidate, Peter Dominico Kuwani.
The electoral commission has until July 3 to unveil the results, although the announcement is widely thought likely to come this week.
Kachale says the commission will only announce results after dealing with all the complaints.