Malawi: Protesters Clash with Police as Election Results Challenged

Malawi police used tear gas Thursday to disperse supporters of the opposition Malawi Congress Party protesting President Peter Mutharika’s re-election.

On Tuesday, protesters stormed government offices in the capital, Lilongwe, and accused the ruling Democratic Progressive Party of rigging the polls with the help of the president-appointed Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

“MEC, instead of being a natural referee in these elections, it was MEC that was in the forefront of rigging these elections,” said Ezekiel Ching’oma, spokesperson for the opposition Malawi Congress Party.

Malawi’s Electoral Commission denies any vote-rigging.

Commission chairperson Jane Ansah announced the official election results May 27, saying “the commission has thoroughly reviewed all the complaints that were lodged on for presidential candidates and we declare the presidential elections to be free and fair and these results are the true reflection of the will of the people of Malawi.”

The MEC declared Mutharika the winner in the re-election with 39 percent of the vote, while opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera was a close second with 35 percent.

Vice President Saulos Chilima’s opposition United Transformation Movement Party came in third with 20 percent.

Chilima told reporters Friday that he has evidence, in the form of a letter, which proves that MEC’s Ansah was part of plans to rig the elections.

He has given her five days to resign.

“At this stage, it will be me and her who are privy to the contents,” Chilima said. “But should she not resign, the public will know the contents on Friday next week.”

MEC officials were said to be in a meeting and could not comment.

Chakwera and Chilima are challenging the election results in court, alleging ballot-stuffing and the use of Tipp-Ex correction fluid to change votes.

Humphreys Mvula, a political analyst based in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre, was perplexed by the alleged use of the eraser fluid.

“I have never known in my life anywhere, where a contest which is decided by a number of votes, you have used Tipp-Ex, you have used strange eraser,” he said. “You have a problem because, again, the use of eraser was occasioned by the fact that possibly those figures were not able to balance using the computer system.”

Malawi’s Constitutional Court has not announced a date for hearing the case.

Speaking on state-run TV Thursday, President Mutharika warned protesters to wait patiently for the court verdict.

“I wish to advise you all my fellow Malawians that I have ordered all security agencies, including the Malawi police and Malawi Defense Force, to protect all Malawians and their properties from all those who cause violence and disorder,” he said.

But opposition supporters have vowed to continue protests until Malawi’s election results are withdrawn and a new vote held, raising the prospect of further clashes.

Source: Voice of America