By Mutsa Makuvaza
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has joined other opposition politicians in the SADC region who have already congratulated 65-year-old Malawian opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera for his victory in the presidential election re-run, although the Malawi Electoral Commission is yet to announce the official poll outcome.
Chakwera appeared headed for victory on Thursday in a re-run of a presidential vote that was scrapped over massive irregularities, unofficial tallies showed.
Voters went to the polls on Tuesday for the second time in a year to elect a president after the Constitutional Court ordered fresh elections in a historic vote seen as a test for democracy in the southern African country.
Results compiled from the 5 002 polling centres and tallied by the public broadcaster MBC and Times newspaper, gave Chakwera a dominant 59% lead over incumbent President Peter Mutharika’s 38%.
“New life to Malawi! Congratulations to the President Elect. Kudos to state organs’ professionalism & citizens’ vigilance. Well done Malawi!,” tweeted Nelson Chamisa, who to this day contests his 2018 elections loss to fierce rival President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu-PF.
Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance, also tweeted: “My friend, brother and leader has just won the Malawian elections…. Change is coming,” Maimane wrote.
Zambia’s main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema tweeted that Malawians “have set a great example for Africa!”
Last year’s election results sparked rare, months-long street protests in Malawi prompting the military to step in as confrontations between police and protesters turned violent.
A grouping of local election observers on Thursday commended the new electoral commission, appointed two weeks ago, for the transparent vote counting.
“This goes a long way in mitigating fears of rigging,” said the grouping which includes influential religious organisations.
The Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR), a local think tank published its own unofficial tally giving Chakwera 60.3% and Mutharika 38.9% of the votes cast.
Mutharika, in power since 2014, won 38.5% of last year’s discredited vote in which Chakwera garnered 35.4%.
The country’s electoral commission did not say Thursday when it would release the full results as it appealed for patience and calm.
The cancellation of Mutharika’s victory made Malawi just the second country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results set aside, after Kenya in 2017.
Rarely do courts in Africa annul election victories of incumbent presidents.
Former president Joyce Banda, who threw her support behind Chakwera in the nine-party electoral alliance, told AFP she was “proud to have been part of history in the making in my country”.
“Africans are demanding accountability, transparency and observance of the rule of law from their leaders, and I feel sorry for those that don’t realise that times have changed, and those ignoring the voices of ordinary people are doing so at their own peril,” she said.
She said Mutharika had “rigged” both the 2014 and 2019 elections, adding: “We have been vindicated. Democracy triumphed!”
Mutharika’s party has threatened to reject the outcome of the vote. – Zimbabwe Voice