President calls for opposition to accept Malawi vote result

2019-05-28 22:00
Peter Mutharika (File: AFP)

Peter Mutharika (File: AFP)

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Malawi's President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday urged opposition parties to accept the outcome of an election clouded by fraud allegations as he was sworn in for a second term.

Thousands of supporters gathered at a sports stadium in Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre to watch him take the oath of office, which had been announced just hours earlier.

Mutharika, 78, of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was declared victor on Monday after an injunction barring the release of the results was lifted.

"I want to congratulate other leaders who competed with me in these elections. But they have to accept that there can only be one winner," Mutharika declared in a short speech.

"The elections are over. This is a time to unite and develop this country."

Mutharika won the ballot with 38.57% of the vote, against former evangelist Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on 35.41% - a gap of just 159 000 votes.

Turnout was 74% of 6.8 million registered voters.

The MCP, the main opposition party, had obtained a temporary injunction at the weekend to halt the release of results over alleged vote-rigging, but it was later lifted by the courts.

Ckakwera has not reacted to the official outcome, but police tuesday used teargas to disperse supporters gathered outside the party headquarters in Lilongwe.

"We are wondering why a whole police unit can go and teargas an unarmed and peaceful gathering as if it is illegal to assemble in this country," said MCP publicity secretary Maurice Munthali.

"There have been sporadic cases of violence in Lilongwe in the run-up and during the election period. And the police is trying to restore law and order, especially in hotspots," said police spokesperson James Kadadzera.

Mutharika dismissed doubts over the outcome, saying international observers had deemed the May 21 election "peaceful, free and fair."

"It is the victory of the rule of law and the rule of democracy. Democracy has won," he said.

Mutharika was speculated to have died during the campaign after he cancelled a series of appearances.

In a swipe at the rumours, he opened his speech saying "I did not die" - triggering loud applause from party supporters.

'Glaring irregularities'? 

The MCP had gone to court over the weekend to stop publication of results, claiming "very glaring irregularities".

Some documents showed "the same handwriting coming from different polling stations which are miles apart," party spokesman Eisenhower Mkaka said on Saturday, adding there was correction fluid on result sheets.

Mutharika campaigned for a second five-year term on a record of improving roads and power infrastructure in the impoverished southeast African country.

During his first term of office, inflation fell from 23% to below nine percent, but still just one in nine of the population have access to mains electricity.

Mutharika, a former law professor in the United States, came to power in 2014 vowing to tackle corruption after the "Cashgate" scandal a year earlier revealed massive looting from state coffers.

But he has faced corruption allegations himself.

Last November, he was forced to return a $200 000 donation from a businessman facing corruption charges in a $3-million contract to supply food to the Malawi police.

Malawi won independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1964, and was then ruled by Hastings Banda as a one-party state until the first multi-party elections in 1994.

Read more on:    peter mutharika  |  malawi  |  southern africa  |  malawi 2019 elections
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