Malawi deploys army as riots mar heated vote

2014-05-20 21:59

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Blantyre - Malawi deployed the army on Tuesday to contain violence that saw polling stations burnt and marred polls seen as the first true test of President Joyce Banda's scandal-tainted rule.

As polling stations opened as much as 10 hours late, anger and speculation about the fairness of the vote spilled over into violence - mirroring the country's volatile politics.

On the outskirts of the commercial capital Blantyre, an AFP reporter saw the smouldering remains of a polling station that had been torched by voters protesting late delivery of balloting material.

A tent used as a polling station was burnt in another Blantyre township, according the electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera.

In the city centre angry youths staged an impromptu mini-protest carrying branches and chanting anti-government slogans.

"Maybe they are trying to rig the election," said Paul Wind, 38. "If they think they will frustrate us from voting, they are wrong," he added.

Another voter Fanuel Kapenga says "this causes doubt, especially if the ruling party wins".

The stakes are high in this, the first election since hard-line president Bingu wa Mutharika died in office two years ago, with his rival heirs reprising their battle for power.

In the days after his death, Mutharika's body was secretly flown around Africa as his brother Peter allegedly tried to prevent Joyce Banda - then vice-president - from being sworn in.

Banda began her term as a darling of the West, feted as one of Africa's rare women leaders, but her government has since been ensnared in a $30m corruption scandal that has seen foreign donors freeze vital aid.

For 74-year-old Peter Mutharika winning would mean an end to his trial for treason.

Analysts predict Banda will win albeit with a slender majority.

"I think the president still has a fighting chance of winning," said Boniface Gulani a political scientist at the University of Malawi.

But with the victor expected to take 40% or less of the votes cast in a do-or-die political battle, the potential for further violence is high.

"Tensions are running very high, especially in Blantyre, and if Joyce Banda wins the vote then I expect there will be more trouble than we've already seen today," said Clive Gabay of the Queen Mary University of London.

To try to calm tensions, election officials on Tuesday extended voting by three hours and deployed the army.

"Defence Force personnel will deploy to strengthen the presence and security already being provided by the Malawi Police Service," said Mbendera.

"We have this embarrassing situation but we are on top of it. It's an operational problem. I apologise to the nation," he said, adding there was no intention to disenfranchise any individual.

'Cashgate'


Throughout her election campaign Banda has made a virtue of the fact she uncovered the "Cashgate" scandal, which saw money siphoned off from the treasury in to the hands of top officials, and critics say to Banda's party war-chest.

"I found this nation almost bankrupt," Banda, 64, said after voting in her home village of Domasi, near the former capital Zomba.

"I'm getting to the end of those two years, and Malawi is at a better place. We have grown by six percent economic growth, we have fuel, we have enough food.

"Malawi is at a better place, but the decision to give me the mandate to continue belongs to Malawians."

Some 7.5 million people are eligible to choose a president, lawmakers and local government councillors in the fifth democratic polls since the end of decades of one-party rule in 1994.

Twelve candidates are standing in the race for the presidency but pollsters say the victor will be one of three or four frontrunners.

Another of Banda's closest competitors is political novice and former cleric Lazarus Chakwera, 59. His Malawi Congress Party led the country after independence from Britain for three decades under dictator Kamuzu Banda.

He says the party has now been "rebranded" from its dark past.

The election is closely watched and whoever emerges winner has their work clearly cut out already. It will likely take time before the international aid taps are re-opened as donors will need to be convinced there will not be any more leaks.

Final results should be announced within eight days of voting.

Read more on:    malawi  |  east africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route

The route of the 2015 Absa Cape Epic has been announced and it promises to be as challenging as ever!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

4 exercise excuses and how to beat them
Watch: Insane road bike skills!
The most extreme journey ever?
Red Bull Lionheart trail run - not for the fainthearted!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.