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Malawi’s president blasts vote rerun as opposition poised to win rare election ordered by court

Malawi’s president on Saturday called the historic rerun of the presidential election “the worst in Malawi’s history” but urged the country to move on peacefully as it awaits official results of a vote the opposition is poised to win.

Meanwhile, members of the Presidential Guard provided security for opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera, who led in the results.

President Peter Mutharika, in his first public comments since Tuesday’s vote, asserted that his party’s election monitors had been beaten and intimidated into staying away from their work.

“Strangely, the Malawi Electoral Commission has dismissed our complaints because our monitors were not there to report irregularities,” he told reporters. He did not take questions.

A court overturned the original election last year won by Mutharika, citing widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballots. It was just the second time in Africa that a court has overturned a presidential election, following a ruling on Kenya’s vote in 2017.

Malawian President Peter Mutharika addresses the media at a news conference in Blantyre, Malawi, on Saturday. More than six million Malawians went to the polls in an election rerun on Tuesday, after a court overturned last year’s election results and ordered a fresh vote. (Thoko Chikondi/The Associated Press)

Malawi’s state broadcaster on Thursday night said Chakwera was leading with 59 per cent, with all votes counted, while Mutharika had 38 per cent. But the electoral commission chair said before any final announcement is made, they had to meet the legal requirements for physically verifying results received.

Final results were expected Saturday night or early Sunday.

Months of sometimes deadly unrest had followed the announcement of Mutharika’s win in the May 2019 election as people in long-peaceful Malawi went into the streets to protest.

The constitutional court on Feb. 3 unanimously ordered that the vote be held again, citing “widespread, systematic and grave” evidence of irregularities and vote tampering.

Mutharika wants a second and final five-year term.

“It is only my sincere hope that we will unite to take this country forward instead of taking it backward,” he said Saturday, urging people to respect the presidency.

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