Pastor Turned Politician Could Become Malawi’s New President, Vote Counting Underway

Defence Spokesperson, Brig Gen Karemire

The people of Malawi continue watching their TV screens, listening to radios, and checking social media with anticipation as vote counting and tallying continues following the re-run of the presidential election on Tuesday.

The election is the second time in just over a year, after incumbent President, Peter Mutharika’s re-election was annulled by the courts over irregularities.

About 6.8 million people were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s rerun, practically a two-horse race between Mutharika and opposition leader, Lazarus Chakwera. A third candidate, Peter Kuwani, was also in the running.

The election is much anticipated after the Constitutional Court in early February ruled that the May 2019 vote was fraught with “grave and widespread irregularities”, including the use of correction fluid on results sheets.

It ordered new elections be held within 150 days of its February ruling.
Mutharika slammed the verdict as a “serious miscarriage of justice” and, along with the electoral commission, filed an appeal.

But on May 8, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier ruling, setting the stage for Malawians to return to the polls again.

In last year’s nullified vote, the 79-year-old incumbent – an academic and brother of former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika – was handed a second term in office with 38.57 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of his main challenger, Lazarus Chakwera, at 35.41 percent.

But now, a candidate will have to garner more than 50 percent of the votes to be declared the outright winner and avoid the possibility of a runoff.

Local media reports indicate that opposition politician and pastor turned politician, Chakwera, 65, is in the lead and could be announced the country’s new leader.

However, the Electoral Commission in Malawi has warned against the release of unofficial results.

The commission which has about a week to announce the results of the presidential rerun said that it had only received results from eight out of 5,008 polling centres by Wednesday.

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