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Malawi braces for presidential poll rerun

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Malawi is bracing for Tuesday’s historic presidential election rerun amid calls for calm and tolerance following months of political tension and uncertainty.

Close to seven million voters are expected to cast their ballots on Tuesday in a poll that will be closely watched by both internal and external stakeholders.

The rerun was ordered by the Constitutional Court in February following complaints by the opposition that last year’s vote was rigged in favour of President Peter Mutharika.

Some of the irregularities include failure by the Malawi Electoral Commission to adhere to statutory requirements on handling tally sheets and logbooks and accepting tally sheets that had been altered using correction fluid.

Mutharika had emerged victorious in the 2019 poll, defeating a strong field of six other presidential candidates.

He narrowly defeated his main rival Lazarus Chakera by winning 38.57 percent of votes cast during the presidential elections held concurrently with polls for members of the National Assembly and local government councillors.

Chakwera won 35.42 percent of the votes while Chilima was a distant third, with 20.24 percent of the ballots cast.

Mutharika’s victory sparked months-long protests that led to widespread destruction of property and looting, with the protesters demanding the removal of the then MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners.

A 65-year-old pastor turned politician, Chakwera is the candidate for the newly formed Tonse Alliance, which also includes several smaller parties.

His running mate is Saulos Chilima, United Transformation Movement leader and Mutharika’s former deputy who finished third in last year’s poll.

Combined, the pair’s official 2019 vote tally was almost 56 percent, well above the threshold that guarantees an outright win.

On the other hand, Mutharika’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has joined forces with the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by Atupele Muluzi, son of former president Bakili Muluzi.

If they repeat last year’s electoral performance, the joint DPP-UDF ticket would gather a little more than 43 percent.

The NGO-Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) on Monday called for calm during and after the presidential rerun, urging political players to avoid inciting their supporters.

“Despite our superficial differences, let us all maintain oneness by realising that the election is not an end in itself but rather a mere means of attaining the development we all equally aspire for and deserve,” NGO-GCN chairperson Barbara Banda said in a statement.

– APA

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