Malawi election: Chakwera leads, Chamisa speaks on ‘Godly’ opposition leader

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Malawi’s opposition is claiming victory in the re-run of last year’s presidential election – which was held again after allegations of widespread rigging.

Official results for Tuesday’s poll have not yet been declared by Malawi’s electoral commission.

But state broadcaster MBC says opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera is leading with 59% of the vote.

President Peter Mutharika, who wants a second term, has 38%, it says.

A third candidate who was not regarded as a serious contender, Peter Kuwani, is said to have received less than 2% of votes.

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

BBC Africa Correspondent Andrew Harding says it was a rare – and for many an encouraging – judicial intervention on a continent where flawed, even stolen, elections are seldom overturned.

Chakwera’s supporters are already celebrating what they believe is an historic victory – in what would be the first time in sub-Saharan Africa that a flawed election result has been overturned, and the opposition has gone on to win power democratically.

The results announced by the MBC come from all but three of 28 districts, reports the Reuters news agency.

So far, the Malawi Electoral Commission has only announced results from 11% of the 5002 voting centres.

Analysts say the commission is meticulously checking the count to make sure there are no grounds to overturn the result again. It says the results should be announced by Saturday.

Opposition figures in several African countries have welcomed Chakwera’s reported victory.

“New life to Malawi!,” said Zimbabwean opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa. “The Lord has given Malawi a Godly man,” he added referring to Chakwera’s past in the clergy.

“My friend, brother and leader has just won the Malawian elections. I just got off the phone with him and celebrate his achievement,” tweeted the former leader of South Africa’s DA opposition party Mmusi Maimane.

An anxious wait

Our correspondent says Malawi’s democratic institutions are likely to come under more strain in the coming hours and days.

The country had been bitterly divided in the run-up to Tuesday’s re-run, with widespread anti-government protests.

A senior figure in the governing party has now claimed the election is being stolen.

Speaking on Tuesday after he had voted in southern Malawi, Mutharika alleged there had been violence in some opposition strongholds, Reuters reports.

“It is very sad. Our secretary general has been beaten up… How then will the election be credible?” it quotes the president as saying.

There has been no verification of these reports.

On casting his vote in the capital, Chakwera said that he had “confidence in the electoral commission to do what is right”.

Whoever wins will have to heal these deep divisions as well as tackle key electoral issues such as corruption, poverty and unemployment.