Malawi begins to vote in a repeat of the presidential election

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BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) – Polls have opened in Malawi and voters began voting on Tuesday in a repeat of the presidential poll after courts annulled the results of the elections over a year ago.

The Constitutional Court ordered on February 3 to hold the elections again and ruled that the initial results were not valid due to widespread evidence of irregularities and manipulation of votes in the May 2019 polls.

The court dismissed incumbent President Peter Mutharika’s victory, citing evidence of voting fraud, including thousands of ballot papers that appear to have been modified using type correction fluid. The ruling was upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.

In the new elections, 79-year-old Mutharika is looking for a second and last five-year term of office and runs into leader of the opposition party Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, 65. Incumbent Vice President Saulos Chilima was also expected to run , but instead decided to become Chakwera’s vice president, trying to maximize the chances of dismissing Mutharika.

The match seems to be very close. The Chakwera / Chilima ticket can win 51% of the vote, according to a poll in early June by the Malawi Institute of Public Opinion and Research.

Some 6.8 million Malawians are eligible to vote in more than 5,000 polling stations across the country.

Before the vote began, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on all political actors and stakeholders to renew their commitment to credible and peaceful elections while respecting all preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19 said the UN spokesman.

“The Secretary General emphasizes the importance of renouncing violence and hateful language and upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

A number of local and international organizations will be observing the new elections to ensure that they are free and fair, said newly elected chairman of Malawi’s electoral commission, Chifundo Kachale.

The European Union, the African Union, the South African Development Community, diplomatic missions and the Commonwealth will observe the elections, AP spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa told AP.

Britain will also be attending the elections, British acting Malawi High Commissioner David Beer confirmed. He said the UK, the United States and the European Union also fund domestic observations to be conducted by Malawian non-governmental organizations.

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