One year after the suspended presidential election, Malawi returns to the polls

Outgoing President of Malawi Peter Mutharika, whose victory was canceled in February following an opinion poll held in May 2019 and obsessed with irregularities, confronts opponent Lazarus Chakwera, who leaves the favorite, on Tuesday, according to analysts.

It’s D-Day in Malawi. Nearly seven million voters are called to the polls on Tuesday, June 23, to elect their president, more than a year after the historic suspension of the re-election of outgoing Peter Mutharika due to massive fraud.

The country’s 5002 polling stations are open from 06:00 to 18:00 local (16:00 to 16:00 GMT). Results are expected at the end of the week.

After a campaign that has resurfaced political tensions in the country, 79-year-old Peter Mutharika is again facing 65-year-old opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera and a third small candidate who is unlucky to interfere with their duel.

“Shame on those who robbed us”

After the May 21, 2019 election, the Election Committee (MEC) had declared victory for the outgoing, with power since 2014, with 38.57% of the vote, against 35.41% for its rival. But Lazarus Chakwera never accepted these results, in his eyes outrageously deceptive, and seized the Constitutional Court.

For months, Malawi, usually so quiet, rocked to the rhythm of opposition demonstrations, instilled violence with the police and hearings before the country’s highest court. And to everyone’s surprise, the judges ruled Peter Mutharika’s victory in February, confirming “widespread and systematic irregularities”.

By ending his campaign on Saturday in Rumphi (North), the departing country called for the restoration of his victory. “We won the 2019 election but (the opposition) went to court and stole the government from us,” he told thousands of supporters, “so let’s vote to shame those who robbed us.”

The favorite opposition

Allied with Vice President Saulos Chilima who broke with the outgoing president, Lazarus Chakwera mobilized his troops by condemning corruption and the outgoing regime’s economic bankruptcy. “The people want change,” he said in an interview with AFP this week, “he sees us as the face of a new Malawi whose construction would be open to everyone.”

Many analysts have made Lazarus Chakwera their favorite. “I don’t give Mutharika a high chance of re-election,” predicted Malawian political scientist Michael Jana of the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). “I just hope the results will be clear enough to avoid further challenges.”

The new president of MEC Chifundo Kachale promised an open vote. “I want to assure you of my absolute commitment and the entire Commission to organize a credible election whose results will be acceptable to everyone,” he explained to the candidates’ representatives.

The candidates have for weeks multiplied the meetings in front of thousands of supporters, but Chifundo Kachale promised that the rules for health prevention against the pandemic of the new coronavirus would be respected during the presidential election. According to the latest report, a total of 730 cases of Covid-19 disease, including 11 deaths, have been identified in Malawi.

With AFP