July 7, 2020

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Malawi opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera wins historic poll rerun

Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters (file picture)Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters (file picture)
Lazarus Chakwera’s political fortunes were revived a court ruling that annulled last year’s flawed election

Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera has won the country’s rerun presidential vote, officials say.

He defeated incumbent Peter Mutharika with 58.57% of the vote in Tuesday’s poll, the electoral commission announced late on Saturday.

In February, Malawi’s constitutional court annulled Mr Mutharika’s victory in the May 2019 election, citing vote tampering.

The country was bitterly divided in the run-up to this week’s election.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It is the second African nation to annul a presidential election over irregularities, after Kenya in 2017.” data-reactid=”27″>It is the second African nation to annul a presidential election over irregularities, after Kenya in 2017.

Following the official result on Saturday, Mr Chakwera said his victory was “a win for democracy and justice,” adding: “My heart is bubbling with joy.”

His supporters took to the streets of the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, sounding car horns and letting off fireworks.

Mr Chakwera is expected to be sworn in on Sunday.

Malawi’s new leader will look to heal the nation

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="By Will Ross, BBC News ” data-reactid=”35″>By Will Ross, BBC News

This is a hugely significant moment in Malawi’s political history, and is evidence that neither the courts nor the electorate were prepared to be bullied or influenced presidential power.

Other countries in Africa have had elections annulled – it happened in Kenya a few years ago – but for the opposition candidate to then go on and win a rerun is unprecedented.

Malawi incumbent President Peter MutharikaMalawi incumbent President Peter Mutharika
Outgoing President Peter Mutharika described Tuesday’s vote as the worst election Malawi has ever had

Peter Mutharika’s narrow victory in last year’s poll was cancelled the Constitutional Court after evidence emerged that correction fluid had been used to alter the vote tallies. He then turned to the Supreme Court for help. Judges there came under a lot of pressure but stood firm. And now the majority of Malawian voters have rejected him.

Mr Mutharika is now crying foul and may mount a legal challenge, but the people of Malawi have chosen Lazarus Chakwera as their next president. The Pentecostal preacher and former theology lecturer will first have to heal a nation that’s been through many months of political turmoil.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s results, Mr Mutharika said that while he found the election “unacceptable”, it was his “sincere hope that we should take this country forward instead of backwards”.

Why was there a new vote?

A rerun of the 2019 election was ordered after the Constitutional Court found the original ballot had been marred widespread irregularities.

That election saw President Mutharika narrowly re-elected fewer than 159,000 votes.

Mr Chakwera, who came second in that election, argued that tallying forms had been added up incorrectly and tampered with.

Malawi's 13-month election. [ First election on 21 May 2019 ],[ Mutharika sworn in on 27 May 2019 ],[ Thousands protest on 20 June 2019, complaining of fraud ],[ Constitutional court overturns result on 3 February 2020 and orders re-run ],[ Court rejects Mutharika's appeal on 8 May 2020 ], Source: Source: BBC, Image: A woman voting in Malawi, 21 May 2019Malawi's 13-month election. [ First election on 21 May 2019 ],[ Mutharika sworn in on 27 May 2019 ],[ Thousands protest on 20 June 2019, complaining of fraud ],[ Constitutional court overturns result on 3 February 2020 and orders re-run ],[ Court rejects Mutharika's appeal on 8 May 2020 ], Source: Source: BBC, Image: A woman voting in Malawi, 21 May 2019
Malawi’s 13-month election. [ First election on 21 May 2019 ],[ Mutharika sworn in on 27 May 2019 ],[ Thousands protest on 20 June 2019, complaining of fraud ],[ Constitutional court overturns result on 3 February 2020 and orders re-run ],[ Court rejects Mutharika’s appeal on 8 May 2020 ], Source: Source: BBC, Image: A woman voting in Malawi, 21 May 2019

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

February’s annulment led some to celebrate, but Mr Mutharika described it as a “serious subversion of justice” which marked the death of the country’s democracy.

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

A woman casts her ballot during the presidential elections in Lilongwe on June 23, 2020A woman casts her ballot during the presidential elections in Lilongwe on June 23, 2020
This week’s rerun was largely peaceful, despite deep tensions

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Who is Lazarus Chakwera ? ” data-reactid=”83″>Who is Lazarus Chakwera ?

The opposition leader, a former cleric, heads up the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Born in Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer, the philosophy and theology graduate has pledged to raise the national minimum wage, among other reforms.

Lazarus Chakwera. Candidate for the Tonse Alliance [ Born 5 April 1955 ],[ Studied theology in Malawi, South Africa and USA ],[ Pastor and lecturer worked at the Assemblies of God School of Theology ],[ Authored several books on religion including Reach the Nations ],[ Ran for president in 2014 and came second ], Source: Source: BBC Monitoring, Image: Lazarus ChakweraLazarus Chakwera. Candidate for the Tonse Alliance [ Born 5 April 1955 ],[ Studied theology in Malawi, South Africa and USA ],[ Pastor and lecturer worked at the Assemblies of God School of Theology ],[ Authored several books on religion including Reach the Nations ],[ Ran for president in 2014 and came second ], Source: Source: BBC Monitoring, Image: Lazarus Chakwera
Lazarus Chakwera. Candidate for the Tonse Alliance [ Born 5 April 1955 ],[ Studied theology in Malawi, South Africa and USA ],[ Pastor and lecturer worked at the Assemblies of God School of Theology ],[ Authored several books on religion including Reach the Nations ],[ Ran for president in 2014 and came second ], Source: Source: BBC Monitoring, Image: Lazarus Chakwera

Mr Chakwera leads a nine-party coalition, the Tonse Alliance, and had the backing of former President Joyce Banda as well as the country’s vice-president, Saulos Chilima, as his running mate.

Mr Chilima – who finished third in the 2019 vote – was once an ally of President Mutharika, but has since fallen out with him.

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