Malawi president says vote re-run flawed as results expected

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 10:46 PM IST

Voters queue to cast their ballots in Malawi's presidential and legislative elections. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has called on Malawi's Electoral Commission (MEC) to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third election.

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika on Saturday said this week's general election re-run was marred by "irregularities", as unofficial tallies showed him losing to the opposition leader.

Voters in the southern African country went to the polls on Tuesday after the Constitutional Court scrapped the initial May 2019 presidential poll due to mass fraud.

Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has called on Malawi's Electoral Commission (MEC) to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third election.

"We expected an election without irregularities," Mutharika told reporters in the second city of Blantyre on Saturday.

"Sadly, as all Malawians have seen, this election is the worst in Malawi's history of our elections."

The president said DPP monitors were "hacked, abducted and intimidated" and therefore unable to verify tally sheets.

"We believe most of the results that were sent to MEC are not a true reflection of the people," Mutharika added.

However, he did not echo his party's calls for another re-run.

Unofficial tallies compiled by public broadcaster MBC gave opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera a dominant 60 percent lead, with the incumbent Mutharika trailing on 39 percent.

DPP administrative secretary Francis Mphepo in a statement highlighted "several incidents that may potentially affect the integrity and credibility of the presidential election results".

The DPP listed polling stations from which their monitors were allegedly excluded and said more than 1.5 million votes had been marred by "violence and intimidation".

"There is no doubt that these irregularities and malpractices will substantially affect the results in one way or another," Mphepo continued.

"We therefore seek... a declaration that the presidential election has been inconclusive."

MEC spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa did not immediately respond to the DPP's accusations.

"The commission is looking into the complaint and will give a determination soon," Mwafulirwa told reporters at a briefing on Saturday.

Political analyst Henry Chingaipe dismissed Mutharika's allegations as "total fabrication".

"These are the kicks of a dying horse," he said. 

"In the history of this country, there has been no election as transparent as this, especially in the management of results." 

Mutharika, in power since 2014, won 38.5 percent of last year's discredited vote in which Chakwera garnered 35.4 percent.

In February, Malawi's top court found the first election was marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

The landmark ruling made Malawi just the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.

Victory in the rerun will be determined by whoever garners more than 50 percent of the votes -- a new threshold set by the court.

Some 6.8 million people were asked to choose between Mutharika, Chakwera and an underdog candidate, Peter Dominico Kuwani.

The MEC has until July 3 to unveil the outcome, although the announcement is thought likely to come later on Saturday.

Results from 80 percent of Malawi's 28 districts have been tallied and verified so far.

Mutharika did not mention whether he would concede defeat, although his party has threatened to reject the outcome of the vote. 

"He is in denial, he has always been in denial. But reality will catch up with him soon," said Gift Trapence of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which led months of street protests against last year's election results.

Chingaipe highly doubted the possibility of a second re-run.

"The only way to get a fresh election is to make a compelling case in the High Court," said Chingaipe, who heads the Malawi-based Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment.

"It is an uphill task, almost impossible, to build a credible case in court," he told AFP. "The circus is over. There will be no such a thing as a fresh election."