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Pulpit to presidency: Malawi's new president takes office

Pulpit to presidency: Malawi's new president takes office


June 28: Chakwera, Chilima sworn in

Malawi held an investiture for president Lazarus Chakwera and vice-president Saulos Chilima, hours after the elections body declared Chakwera winner of last Tuesday’s polls.

The event was held in Lilongwe where thousands gathered as Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda administered the oath to the new leaders.

In his inaugural speech the president struck a conciliatory tone promising to be president for all Malawians whether they voted for him or not.

“I know there are many of you who did not vote for me and the prospect of my presidency gives you fear, I want you to know that my administration will strive to give equal opportunities for all of us together.”

The new president is a philosopher, theologian and clergyman by training and studied in Malawi, South Africa and the United States. Chakwera has been the face of opposition in the country’s political space since 2013.

He led the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), a former ruling party, credited with Malawi’s independence struggle from British rule in the early 1960s. He contested two elections on the MCP ticket losing twice in 2014 and 2019, the latter result was annulled and he has won the rerun.

Key statistics

  • Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the Tonse Allaince = 2,604,043 votes (58.5%)
  • Arthur Peter Mutharika of the DPP/UDF alliance = 1,751,877 votes
  • Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development = 33,456 votes
  • Out of the 6,859,570 registered voters, 4,445,699 cast their votes
  • The Commission recorded 57,323 spoilt ballots, representing 1.29%
  • The commission received and resolved 10 complaints from all three participating sides

Dr. LAZARUSCHAKWERA and SKChilima taking Oath of Office as President and Vice President of the Republic of #Malawi #PresidentialSwearingIn pic.twitter.com/wkAknIi5ee

— Malawi Government (@MalawiGovt) June 28, 2020

Introducing Dr. LAZARUSCHAKWERA and SKChilima, President and Vice President of the Republic of #Malawi #PresidentialSwearingIn pic.twitter.com/hKVvJW69MJ

— Malawi Government (@MalawiGovt) June 28, 2020

June 27: Chakwera’s victory confirmed by election body

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) late Saturday declared opposition alliance leader Lazarus Chakwera as the winner of Tuesday’s presidential re-run election.

Making the declaration, MEC chairperson Justice Chifundo Kachale announced that Chakwera, leader of the Tonse Allaince bagged 2,604,043 votes, representing 58.5 percent of the total votes cast.

Outgoing president Peter Mutharika of the DPP/UDF alliance came second with 1,751,877 votes. The third candidate Mbakuwaku Movement for Development candidate Peter Kuwani managed 33,456 votes.

Out of the 6,859,570 registered voters, 4,445,699 cast their votes. The Commission recorded 57,323 null and void votes, representing 1.29 percent. The commission received and resolved 10 complaints from all three participating sides.

June 25: Opposition celebrates unofficial Chakwera victory

Opposition chief Lazarus Chakwera has ‘taken the lead’ in Malawi’s poll count, according to unofficial results being projected by multiple local media outlets.

The state broadcaster MBC is reporting that opposition alliance candidate Chakwera has an unassailable 60% share of the vote so far with ballots from 25 of 28 districts counted, the Reuters news agency reports.

Opposition supporters are already celebrating in parts of the country. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition, a civil society pressure group that challenged the government serially also said it had already congratulated opposition leader and president-elect.

#UnofficialResults from 193 of 193 constituencies

Lazarus Chakwera – 59.0%
Peter Kuwani – 1.2%
Peter Mutharika – 38.7%#TimesNews pic.twitter.com/R9wLCOzDi5

— Times 360 Malawi (@bnltimes) June 25, 2020

Meanwhile former President Bakili Muluzi has urged the losers from last Tuesday’s polls to accept defeat and live in peace with the winners.

Muluzi, who was speaking on a local radio station – Zodiak FM, said he has already spoken to President Peter Mutharika and expects whoever loses this election to congratulate the winner. The 79-year-old was president between 1994 to 2004.

Two districts awaited to complete national tally – MEC

Electoral Commission chairperson Khumbo Kachale confirmed today that the MEC has received results from 26 of the 28 districts across the country. Dowa and Mzimba, remain the two districts yet to submit their results to the National Tally Centre.

He was addressing the media at the centre in Blantyre, where he announced results from three districts — Likoma, Mwanza and Chiradzulu — whose voter population represents 18 percent of the total votes.

Kachale also confirmed that MEC has reviewed the complaint from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and found that there was an element of violence and has since referred the matter to the Malawi Police Service.

Some reports are projecting a win for the Tonse alliance candidate and opposition chief, Lazarus Chakwera who came second in the annulled poll of May 2019.

The 28 districts are divided among three regions: The Northern Region (capital Mzuzu), the Central Region (Lilongwe), and the Southern Region (Blantyre)

Opposition wins in Malawi! Chakwera defeated President Mutharika with around 59% of the vote – we were 1% off in our prediction. MEC will announce at lunchtime: question now is what the ruling party will do. Still no concession … #malawi2020 #MalawiDecides #MalawiElections2020 pic.twitter.com/jTGHNsu6Mz

— Prof Nic Cheeseman (@Fromagehomme) June 25, 2020

On the subject of absent election observers, the poll chief he cited travel bans due to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the main possible factors leading to the absence of international observers in the fresh election. He confirmed that all necessary observers were invited and that they responded positively.

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June 24: Elections chief warns of ‘fake results’

Electoral Commission chair Chifundo Kachale says results are being transferred manually for further collation hence warned against allegations of rigging. He also tasked the media to always state that results they are transmitting were unofficial, local media have reported.

He also reminded stakeholders at a media briefing that every tally that doesn’t come from the MEC was “fake news” accusing some unprincipled individuals of being behind the “cooked up” results.

“We appeal to Malawians to maintain peace and calm as the vote-counting continues,” Kachale told a news conference in Blantyre. The electoral commission has until July 3 to unveil the results, although the announcement is widely thought likely to come this week.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Human Rights Commission, MHRC, which was behind mass protests against the Mutharika government since the May 2019 polls has also said it was impressed with the conduct of the rerun.

The third candidate in the rerun, MMD’s Peter Kuwani has also appealed to the elections body to disqualify incumbent Mutharika and opposition coalition chief Chakwera. He cites the changing of their running mates as an infraction that merits disqualification.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has accused Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party supporters of assaulting its monitors during the election.

The MEC says it will respond to all petitions in due course. It confirmed petitions from the major parties involved especially on the issue of violence during the voting process. President Mutharika after voting condemned acts of violence and intimidation.

Read more – Malawi election commission appeals for calm as it tallies votes

Earlier today, MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale acknowledged that some parties had filed complaints on electoral violence. He said the commission will have an official position on the complaints by close of business today. #MalawiDecides2020 #FreshElection2020 #NationOnline pic.twitter.com/fnfHx64MQg

— NationOnline (@NationOnlineMw) June 24, 2020

June 23: Voting ends, ballot counting begins

Polls have closed in most parts of Malawi privately-run newspaper The Nation reports. In other centers rechargeable lamps were used to help last minute voters to cast their ballots in the crucial poll rerun ordered by the courts earlier this year.

The next process is the ballot counting stage which is likely to continue deep into the evening as representatives of both the two frontrunners look ,to ensure that every vote counts.

Earlier in the day, an election observation consortium declared that they were impressed with the way the process had been rolled out. Praising the timely deployment of materials and also the virus control protocols in places that they had visited.

The consortium comprises of the National Institute for Civic Education, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the Public Affairs Committee.

The new Malawi Electoral Commission, MEC, chief Chifundo Kachale also urged the public to observe necessary legal processes in dealing with electoral grievances. He said it was the only way to maintain peace and orderliness.

After casting his ballot incumbent Peter Mutharika said he was upbeat about securing his final term whiles condemning what he said was violence and intimidation. His main Challenger Lazarus Chakwera also expressed same hopes adding that he wanted to serve Malawi with integrity.

Malawi poll rerun ?️???
- Voting wrapping up
- Counting underway in some places
- Observer group says process largely peaceful
- President calls for calm after casting ballot
- Elections boss assures of open, fair process pic.twitter.com/h1tGqu7ay1

— africanews ? (@africanews) June 23, 2020

June 23: Malawians vote in crucial presidential poll rerun despite virus

Voters in Malawi have already started casting their ballots today in crucial presidential election rerun pitting incumbent Peter Mutharika and opposition coalition leader Lazarus Chakwera.

Today’s vote was necessitated after courts nullified the results of the May 2019 election. Some 6.8 million Malawians are eligible to cast ballots at more than 5,000 polling stations across the country.

A cancelled vote and rerun order

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 3, 2020 ordered that the election be held again, ruling that the first results were not valid because of widespread evidence of irregularities and vote tampering.

The court struck down the victory of incumbent President Peter Mutharika citing evidence of voting fraud, including thousands of ballots that appeared to have been altered using typing correction fluid. The ruling was upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.

Main contenders: Incumbent vs. Opposition coalition chief

In the 2019 polls, seven presidential candidates contested but now the number has come down to two. The 79-year-old Mutharika, looking for a second and final five-year term in office is up against the leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, 65.

Incumbent Vice President Saulos Chilima was also expected to run, but he decided instead stand as Chakwera’s vice-president, in a bid to maximize chances of unseating Mutharika.

The contest appears to be very close. The Chakwera/Chilima ticket may win 51% of the vote, according to a poll in early June by Malawi’s Institute of Public Opinion and Research.

A local newspaper The Nation referred to the vote as a “Defining Moment” for the southern African country.

COVID-19 concerns

Malawi is one of few African countries that has still recorded below 1,000 coronavirus cases as of today. The official case load stood at 749 cases.

Photos and videos of people at voting centers showed a disregard for health protocols as people were cramped together in long winding lines without the physical distancing rules, very few people were seen wearing masks including top politicians.

The Malawi Electoral Commission officers were however seen in gloves and masks as they administered voting procedures and materials to members of the public.

Local media have reported that voting is also ongoing in a number of prison facilities across the country. The process has been smooth except for a few places where opening of voting has been delayed for a number of reasons.

Malawi joins a number of African countries that went ahead with elections despite the virus . Burundi, in May 2020; held general elections with the presidential race returning the ruling party candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye as winner.

Mali held legislative elections in March as did Guinea where partial legislative elections and a constitutional referendum were held in March this year. The United Nations in all cases cautioned authorities to take all necessary measures to avoid spread of the virus.

  • Confirmed cases = 749
  • Active cases = 480
  • Recoveries = 258
  • Number of deaths = 11

John Hopkins Uni stats valid as of June 22, 2020U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on “all political actors and stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections, while observing all preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19,” the U.N. spokesman said.

“The secretary-general underlines the importance of refraining from violence and hate speech, and of upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

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A number of local and international organizations will observe the new elections, in an effort to make sure that they are free and fair, the newly-elected chairman of the Malawi Electoral Commission Chifundo Kachale said.

The European Union, African Union, Southern African Development Community, diplomatic missions and the Commonwealth will be observing the elections, the electoral commission’s spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa told AP.

Britain will also be observing the elections, the U.K.’s Acting High Commissioner to Malawi David Beer confirmed. He said that the U.K., the U.S. and the European Union are also funding domestic observation to be carried out by Malawian non-governmental organizations.

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