By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
Lilongwe - Democratic Progressive Party leader Peter Mutharika has narrowly won Malawi’s May 21 elections, beating his closest rival Malawi Congress Party's (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera by a slim margin of three percentage votes while new kid on the block, ex vice-president and United Transformation Movement (UTM) leader Saulos Chilima emerged third in the race, the Malawi Electoral Commission announced on Monday.
Deemed by many as the most competitive election ever in Malawi’s history, the polls saw incumbent President Mutharika get 1,940,709 of the votes, representing 38.67 percent, and Chakwera polling 1,781,740 representing
35.41 percentage of the vote. Chilima got 1,018,361, representing 20.24 percent of the votes.
The election had seven presidential candidates. The other four were United Democratic Front's (UDF)
Atupele Muluzi who got 235,164 of the votes representing 4.67 percent, Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku party who scooped 20,369 votes, representing 0.40 percent, Professor Chisi of Umodzi Party who got 19,187 of the
votes representing 0.38 percent, and independent candidate Hardwick Kaliya who had 15,726 votes, representing 0.31 percent.
MEC chair Jane Ansah had stalled the announcement of the winner after the High court in Lilongwe had granted the MCP an injunction restraining the electoral commission from announcing the presidential winner of the May 21 elections.
But the declaration of results was later announced after the High Court lifted its weekend injunction which followed opposition allegations of ballot tampering against Mutharika’s ruling party.
Voters cast ballots for a president and parliament last Tuesday in a bruising race with results due at the weekend but on Saturday a court granted the opposition an injunction after the MEC received 147 cases of irregularities, including results sheets with sections blotted out or altered with correction fluid, popuarly known as Tippex.
But after two days waiting engulfed with sporadic incidents of violence following reports of tampering, the court lifted the injunction on Monday, and the electoral commission confirmed Mutharika’s narrow victory.
“I hereby declare Arthur Mutharika as the winner of the presidential election held on 21 May,” MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah said.
The MCP had demanded a recount of the votes alleging that the elections were marred by irregularities.
However, Ansah said her commission reviewed all the complaints that were lodged and concluded that the polls were free and fair.
“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,” she said.
She said the commission's job was to ensure that the elections and the results were credible.
She said the election was a gallant fight and commended all those who came to vote.
Ansah bemoaned the political parties tendancy of taking their grievances to the media other than to the commission.
“We gave all political parties the scanned result sheets so that if they had queries, they would confront us but we wondered why the parties opted to do otherwise,” she said.
She then declared Mutharika as the president-elect of Malawi and Everton Herbert Chimulirenji as vice president-elect of Malawi.
Mutharika, who enters his second term with promises of turning developing Malawi, will wrestle with old issues of high unemployment among the youths, electricity blackouts, poverty, lack of drugs in hospital, rampant corruption and poor service delivery. The Malawians are hopeful that this time around Malawi will be a better place.
This was the first time Malawi used the electronic transfer system of results.