BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) – Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in as Malawi’s new president Sunday after announcing the night before he won the re-election of the South African country.
Chakwera is Malawi’s sixth president after winning last week’s historic elections, the first time a court-rejected vote in Africa has led to the defeat of an incumbent leader.
After a hard-fought campaign, Chakwera pushed for national reconciliation in his inaugural speech in the capital, Lilongwe, and spoke directly to supporters of defeated incumbent President Peter Mutharika.
“Perhaps the prospect of my presidency fills you with fear and sorrow. I want you to remember one thing that this new Malawi is also a home for you, “said Chakwera.” As long as I am the president, it will be a home where you too will thrive. “
Chakwera won with 58.57% of the votes cast and defeated incumbent President Peter Mutharika, according to official results announced by Malawi’s election committee on Saturday night. There were nightly parties in the towns and villages across the country.
Chakwera, 65, said it was an honor to stand before the inaugural crowd as president.
“It is an honor that I feel with unspeakable joy and enormous gratitude. It’s an honor forged in the furnace of your desire and your demand for change, ”he said.
The Chakwera election came after months of determined street protests against the results of the election over a year ago, in May 2019, in which Mutharika was declared the winner. The Constitutional Court has scrapped the results, citing widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballot papers. It was the second time in Africa that a court overturned the presidential elections, following a 2017 ruling on the vote in Kenya.
One of the observers, Malawi’s Human Rights Commission, has identified reelection as peaceful and transparent.
The reports of incumbent Mutharika criticized the re-election as “the worst in Malawi’s history,” but he urged the country to “continue peacefully” and spoke to the media in Blantyre on Saturday.
Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party issued a statement on Saturday calling on the electoral committee to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third election, but Mutharika did not ask for it when speaking to the press.
Chakwera acknowledged the dissatisfaction of Mutharika’s supporters and asked them in his inaugural speech to give him the chance to gain their confidence and make his election a victory for all Malawians.
“Those of you who celebrate, celebrate with a humanity that all Malawians deserve, so that we have the greatness to celebrate a victory that is not for one man, not for one woman, not for one party, not for one group, but for all of us together, “said Chakwera.” Thus we will fulfill the dream of a new Malawi that will be for everyone. “
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