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Facing defeat, Malawi president says election re-run had irregularities

Malawi President Peter Mutharika, facing likely defeat when the result of this week’s presidential election is announced, said on Saturday there had been voting irregularities including violence and intimidation against his party’s election monitors.

Malawi President Peter Mutharika and opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera
Malawi President Peter Mutharika and opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera

However, he called for peace ahead of the official announcement of the winner.

Unofficial tallies from Tuesday’s vote show that opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera has an unassailable lead. The electoral commission has announced results from just over two-thirds of districts.

In an address to the nation, Mutharika said the ruling Democratic Progress Party (DPP) monitors were “beaten, hacked, abducted and intimidated so that they should not participate in voting observation process.”

As a result, Mutharika said the DPP and its alliance partner believed most of the results were not a true reflection of the people.

“Strangely, the Malawi Electoral Commission has dismissed our complaints because our monitors were not there to report irregularities,” he said.

The opposition has denied the allegations.

Police spokesman James Kadadzera said he was not immediately aware of reports on violence and intimidation.

The electoral commission said earlier it had received complaints from the DPP on alleged violence against the party’s monitors.

Tuesday’s vote was regarded as a test of the ability of African courts to tackle ballot fraud and restrain presidential power.

The judiciary infuriated Mutharika in February by overturning the result of an election last year that had given him a second term, citing irregularities, and ordering a re-run.

If defeated in the re-run, Mutharika — in power since 2014 — could choose to either challenge the result in court or step aside.

“As much as we find this election unacceptable, but for the sake of peace, I wish to ask all Malawians to be peaceful as the results are announced,” he said.

Mutharika’s disputed win last year sparked months of anti-government demonstrations, a rare sight in Malawi. Reuters