Malawi’s main opposition party on Sunday obtained a court injunction ordering the electoral commission to announce the results of this week’s general election before the votes are counted for a second time.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is leading in Tuesday’s poll, opposes the commission’s plan of finishing an ongoing vote count and then staging a recount to make sure the poll was fraud-free before announcing the results.
Kalekeni Kaphale, the lawyer representing the DPP, said the injunction means the electoral body must announce the results within eight days.
DPP spokesman Nicholas Dausi said the party is against a recount “because we are not sure whether or not there was enough security of the (ballot) boxes after voting.”
The Lilongwe High Court did not comment on whether a recount was necessary or not. President Joyce Banda on Saturday alleged widespread irregularities in the elections and ordered the electoral commission to stop the vote count. She called for new elections within 90 days in which she would no longer contest the presidency.
But the electoral commission, the Law Society of Malawi and the DPP obtained a court injunction ordering the vote count to continue.
The court said only the electoral commission was qualified to make decisions regarding the election, and that one of the candidates could not nullify the vote. “Nothing in the constitution gives the president powers to cancel an election. This is clearly illegal, unconstitutional and not acceptable,” DPP presidential candidate Peter Mutharika said.
Electoral commission chairman Maxon Mbendera said it had agreed with the political parties that concerns over fraud can be resolved by a recount.
“The commission (has) reported that in the course of vote tallying, there are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre,” Mbendera said late Saturday.
“There will be an implementation plan for the recount of the ballot papers early next week,” he added.
The current vote count “will be pursued to the end, but results will not be announced until the vote recount outcome is known and compared with” the original count, Mbendera said.
At least 30 per cent of the votes have been counted so far, showing that Banda – leader of the People’s Party (PP) – was trailing behind two other candidates.
The front-runner was the DPP’s Peter Mutharika, brother of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, followed by Lazarus Chakwera, an evangelical pastor from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
“It is clear that professor Peter Mutharika is heading for victory. We want the Malawi electoral commission to declare him winner, and the rest should follow later,” Dausi said.
Electoral commissioner Nancy Tembo, however, insisted on the need to recount votes. “There are anomalies and irregularities that some parties have noticed. We need to deal with these anomalies,” she said.
Banda’s PP, the MCP and another opposition party, the United Democratic Front (UDF), have hailed the electoral commission’s decision to recount the votes.
“We wonder why our friends from the DPP are against the recounting. What are they afraid of?” PP spokesman Ken Msonda asked. The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) said the recount would strengthen the acceptance of the election results following claims of fraud. “We want a cloud of suspicion to be cleared,” CHRR director Timothy Mtambo said.
Malawi’s election was chaotic, with people still voting two days after election day because of delays in the distribution of votingmaterial. In the commercial capital Blantyre, angry voters set a polling station alight.
Banda rose from the vice presidency to the presidency after Bingu wa Mutharika’s sudden death in 2012. She won applause from the West for her austerity policies, but her rule was later tainted by a massive corruption scandal, which led to donors slashing aid that had made up 40 per cent of Malawi’s budget.