Victory dance in Malawi as opposition celebrates victory in re-run presidential election
London, June 26, 2020 (AltAfrica)-The votes have been counted after a highly anticipated rerun of the presidential election in Malawi this week, as the opposition Tonse Alliance claimed victory over incumbent Peter Mutharika on Thursday afternoon, although Malawi’s Electoral Commission has yet to announce the official result.
Prior to the victory claim, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation said Lazarus Chakwera had unassailable lead with 60% of vote from all but three of 28 districts counted, and that it gave President Peter Mutharika 39% of votes.
“With all votes … tallied, it is now clear that Malawians have resoundingly given [the opposition] alliance the mandate to govern this country for the next five years,” according to a statement from Tonse Alliance.
The alliance brings together main opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, head of the Malawi Congress Party, and Saulos Chilima of United Transformation Movement party (UTM), who came in third place in the 2019 election, solidifying an opposition bloc.
Malawians went to the polls again after the Constitutional Court ruled the May 2019 elections null and void due to “widespread, systematic and grave” irregularities. That ruling was challenged and later upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.
There were a number of marked changes between the two elections, according to political analyst Boni Dulani from the University of Malawi.
“Generally speaking, the quality and organization was a lot better than last year’s annulled election; the new leadership at the electoral commission placed emphasis on the fact that any electoral staff who messed up would be personally held liable,” says Dulani.
“A lot of the polling staff took that to heart– they were a lot more cautious in the way they did things than before,” adds Dulani, who was also an observer in the election.
“That’s why we’ve seen almost no use of the correction fluid tippex, which characterized last year’s election,” he says.
The new Malawi Electoral Commission Head Chifundo Kachale, a high court judge, had three-and-a-half weeks to organize an election, and while there were a few glitches that were logistical, including missing materials, it was more transparent, says Dulani, which is why people are declaring winners—they have already done the tallying based on the numbers publicly posted at the district level.
“There is no comparison to last year’s ‘tippex election’,” says Pemphero Wamwale Mphande, who ran as a member of parliament in his constituency last year and lost.
“For me as a candidate, we had a similar thing at my constituency– one of my observers told me that at the counting of the results, more people had voted than had registered at the center,” he tells RFI, describing how 20 more votes were cast than the number of people on the voter roll.
In the 2019 election, the MP position for his constituency went to the incumbent.
“The funny thing is now it has gone to the leader of the opposition– I think that’s interesting because I don’t think much has changed between then and now,” he says.
Writing on the wall
In the month prior to the election, the Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR), headed by social scientist Dulani, polled Malawians around the country, asking voters about the upcoming election. Their pre-election poll showed that the Chakwera-Chilima Tonse Alliance opposition would win with a 58 percent total to incumber Peter Mutharika’s 38 percent.
According to Malawian media on Wednesday, the Tonse Alliance had a 55 percent lead with three-quarters of the vote counted, while Mutharika had 40 percent.
“The final decision was what Malawians really decided and the result was there for all to see,” says Dulani.