CHANGE OF GUARD

Malawi opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera wins historic poll rerun

It is the second African nation to annul a presidential election over irregularities, after Kenya.

In Summary

• 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.

FILE PHOTO: Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters after a court annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner, in Lilongwe, Malawi, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters after a court annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner, in Lilongwe, Malawi, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara/File Photo

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.

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

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 by 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.

Peter Mutharika's narrow victory in last year's poll was cancelled by 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".