Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera again won this week’s presidential election with 58.57 percent of the vote, the election committee said on Saturday.
It was a dramatic change in fortune for the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, whose victory in the May 2019 election was reversed by the Constitutional Court, citing widespread fraud.
About 6.8 million voters in the South African country had returned to the polls on Tuesday.
And on Saturday, the nomination committee chairman Chifundo Kachale told reporters: “The Commission declares that Lazarus Chakwera, having obtained 58.57 percent of the vote, has duly elected Malawi’s president.”
Mutharika came in second with 1,751,377 votes, while underdog candidate Peter Dominico Kuwani got 32,456.
The poll was 64.81 percent.
The announcement was met with loud cheers and applause as opposition supporters waved Malawi’s red, black and green flag and shouted “government!” in local Chichewa.
In February, Malawi’s Supreme Court found that the first election had been damaged by widespread irregularities, including the use of corrective fluid to manipulate the results sheet.
The landmark ruling meant that Malawi was just the second sub-Saharan African country to get results from the presidential election after Kenya 2017.
“This is a win for the Malawians, it is a win for democracy, a win for justice,” said an excited Chakwera after his victory was declared.
“It is a win that will allow this nation to truly restore and begin to build a new type of Malawi where we will all be involved together.”
Meanwhile, a cheering crowd gathered for a fireworks display at the headquarters of Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party in the capital, Lilongwe.
Requires a third voice
Mutharika declined to comment on his defeat.
Earlier Saturday, Mutharika had argued that the election had again been flawed, citing violence and threats against DPP monitors.
“We have no further comments to make,” Mutharika’s spokesman Mgeme Kalilani told AFP after the results. “The statement we made earlier today is enough.”
The outgoing President’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Friday had called on Malawi’s Election Commission (MEC) to invalidate the results of the second vote and declare a third election.
“We expected a choice without irregularities,” Mutharika told reporters in Blantyre before the official results were announced.
“Unfortunately, as all Malawians have seen, this election is the worst in Malawi’s history of our elections,” he added.
“We believe that most of the results sent to MEC are not a true reflection of the people.”
However, Mutharika did not echo his party’s calls for a new redial.
In power since 2014, he had won 38.5 percent of the discredited vote, with Chakwera getting close to 35.4 percent.
The DPP’s administrative secretary Francis Mphepo stated in a statement “several incidents that could potentially affect the integrity and credibility of the presidential election results”.
The DPP listed polling stations from which their displays were allegedly excluded and said more than 1.5 million votes had been harmed by “violence and threats”.
“There is no doubt that these irregularities and inaccuracies will affect the results in some way,” continued Mphepo.
“We are therefore seeking … an explanation that the presidential election has been unequivocal.”
“The circus is over”
Kachale, for MEC, said all complaints had been “resolved”.
Political analyst Henry Chingaipe dismissed Mutharika’s allegations as “total fabrication”.
“These are the kicks of a dying horse,” said Chingaipe, head of the Malawi-based Institute for Political Research and Social Empowerment.
“In the history of the country, there has been no choice as open as this, especially in the management of results.”
The Gift Trapence of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which led months of street protests against last year’s election results, also dismissed DPP’s complaint.
“He is in denial, he has always been in denial. But reality will pick him up soon,” Trapence said.
Chingaipe strongly doubted the possibility of a second round.
“The only way to get a new election is to make a compelling case in the High Court,” he added.
“It is an uphill task, almost impossible, to build a credible target in court,” he told AFP.
“The circus is over. There will be no such thing as a new election.”