Opposition poised to win Malawi’s fresh presidential vote

LILONGWE, Malawi (AP) — The opposition looks poised to win a historic presidential election in Malawi, where a court overturned the original vote last year citing widespread irregularities including the use of correction fluid on ballots.

This is just the second time in Africa that a court has overturned a presidential election, following a ruling on Kenya’s vote in 2017.

Malawi’s state broadcaster on Thursday night said opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera was leading with 59% with all votes counted, while President Peter Mutharika had 38%.

But Malawi Electoral Commission chair Chifundo Kachale told reporters they were expected to announce the winner in the next 36 to 48 hours.

Kachale said the delay is in line with legal requirements that commission must physically verify the results received. He said the commission also is verifying the null and void votes to ascertain if they could be reconsidered.

Mutharika is yet to make a statement on Tuesday’s election.

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 3 unanimously struck down Mutharika’s victory and ordered that the May 2019 election be held again, ruling that the results were not valid because of “widespread, systematic and grave” evidence of irregularities and vote tampering.

Months of sometimes deadly unrest had followed the announcement of the election results as people in long-peaceful Malawi went into the streets to protest.

The 79-year-old Mutharika wants a second and final five-year term. Incumbent Vice President Saulos Chilima had been expected to run but instead decided to stand as Chakwera’s vice presidential running mate in a bid to maximize chances of unseating the president.

The contest appears to be very close. A poll in early June by Malawi’s Institute of Public Opinion and Research said the Chakwera/Chilima ticket could win 51% of the vote,

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