Malawi presidential election: Polls open in historic re-run

  23 June 2020    Read: 517
Malawi presidential election: Polls open in historic re-run

Polls have opened in Malawi a year on from President Peter Mutharika's disputed election victory that was annulled nearly five months ago.

Mr Mutharika, who wants a second term, is up against Lazarus Chakwera, who heads an opposition coalition.

Evidence of vote tampering including correction fluid on tally sheets led to judges scrapping his May 2019 victory and ordering a fresh election.

The country's judiciary has been widely praised for its robust response.

Malawi became the second African nation to annul a presidential election over irregularities, after Kenya in 2017.

The country has been bitterly divided in the run-up to Tuesday's re-run, the BBC's Emmanuel Igunza reports.

Widespread anti-government protests and violence have threatened to plunge Malawi into an even deeper crisis.

Image copyrightAFPImage captionVoters are choosing between President Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera
Whoever wins the election, will have to heal these deep divisions as well as tackle key electoral issues such as corruption, poverty and unemployment.

Why is there a new vote?

A re-run of the May 2019 election was ordered by Malawi's Constitutional Court in February after judges found widespread irregularities with the original ballot.

That election saw President Mutharika narrowly re-elected by less than 159,000 votes with a 38.6% share of the vote. Mr Chakwera came second with 35.4%.

Mr Chakwera and the candidate who came third argued that the election had not been fair.

Their complaints included allegations that vote tallying forms had been added up incorrectly and tampered with using correction fluid - known in Malawi by its brand name Tipp-Ex.

Uncertainty around the result sparked months of tension and protests, which spilled over into clashes between opposition supporters and police across the country.

February's decision to annul the election led some to celebrate, but Mr Mutharika described it as a "serious subversion of justice" which marked the death of the country's democracy.

Last month, Malawi's former electoral commission chair Jane Ansah resigned following months of pressure by protesters who criticised her handling of the poll.

The new vote comes at a time of growing tension between the government and the country's courts.

There have also been concerns over the logistics and safety of carrying out an election in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

 

BBC


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