Malawi ruling party cries foul over presidential vote re-run

Malawi's governing party has called for a third presidential election, citing irregularities and intimidation in this week's re-run vote as unofficial tallies show incumbent President Peter Mutharika losing to the opposition leader.

Voters in the southern African country went to the polls on Tuesday for the second time in 13 months after the Constitutional Court scrapped the initial May 2019 presidential election over mass fraud.

The governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called Friday on the electoral commission to annul the results collated so far of the second vote and declare a third poll.

Unofficial tallies compiled by public broadcaster MBC gave opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera a dominant 60 percent lead, with the incumbent Mutharika trailing on 39 percent.

DPP administrative secretary Francis Mphepo said in a statement: "We wish to highlight several incidents that may potentially affect the integrity and credibility of the presidential election results."

The party listed polling stations from which their monitors were allegedly excluded and said more than 1.5 million votes had been marred by "violence and intimidation". 

"There is no doubt that these irregularities and malpractices will substantially affect the results in one way or another," Mphepo continued.

"We therefore seek... a declaration that the presidential election has been inconclusive."

Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa did not immediately respond to the DPP's accusations.

"The commission is looking into the complaint and will give a determination soon," Mwafulirwa told reporters at a briefing on Saturday.

- 'Very credible election' -

Political analyst Henry Chingaipe highly doubted the possibility of a second re-run.

"The only way to get a fresh election is to make a compelling case in the High Court," said Chingaipe, who heads the Malawi-based Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment.

"It is an uphill task, almost impossible, to build a credible case in court," he told AFP. "The circus is over. There will be no such a thing as a fresh election."

Mutharika, in power since 2014, won 38.5 percent of last year's discredited vote in which Chakwera garnered 35.4 percent. 

In February, Malawi's top court found the election was marred by widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid to tamper with result sheets.

The landmark ruling made Malawi just the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.

Victory in the rerun will be determined by whoever garners more than 50 percent of the votes -- a new threshold set by the court.

Some 6.8 million people were asked to vote between Mutharika, Chakwera and an underdog candidate, Peter Dominico Kuwani.

Results from 17 of Malawi's 28 districts have been tallied and verified so far.

The MEC has until July 3 to unveil the outcome, although the announcement is thought likely to come this week.

"We have had a very credible election compared to the 2019 presidential election," Malawian human rights activist Luke Tembo told AFP.

"The fact that people came out in large numbers to vote... has to be taken as a very strong message, moving forward, that Malawians will never allow their vote to be stolen." (AFP)