Voting in Malawi’s highly charged fresh presidential election started generally peacefully and calmly with sporadic incidences of violence stemming from suspicions of attempts to tamper with the votes.
Several people are reportedly arrested for attempting to vote using stolen identity cards while mobs and military officers apprehended those allegedly deployed to disrupt elections.
President Peter Mutharika faces an uphill task to win the election which recent opinion polls project a victory for the opposition following the formation of an electoral alliance by the two main opposition candidates, Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress party (MCP) and incumbent Vice President Saulos Chilima of UTM party and nine other political parties.
Some 6.8 million Malawians are expected to cast their vote in the election with voting expected to close at 6pm today.
In Thyolo district, among the voters was incumbent president, 80-year-old Peter Mutharika who is seeking a second and last term of office.
Speaking after casting his vote at Malembo Primary School on the outskirts of the capital city Lilongwe, Lazarus Chakwera, 65, the leader of the opposition Tonse Alliance and Malawi Congress Party (MCP), tipped to win the elections, said he was confident he will win the election.
Chakwera said he had confidence in the newly appointed commissioners of the electoral commission that they will deliver a credible election.
“The electoral commission has so far given us confidence that the will of Malawians is going to be respected,” said Chakwera, further urging his supporters to remain calm.
Chakwera, who alongside his current running mate, Saulos Chilima, petitioned the court to nullify the May 21, 2019 presidential election citing serious electoral irregularities, said so far he was impressed with how the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) had conducted the election.
Turnout appeared impressive in majority of the polling centres in the capital city Lilongwe despite the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic.
At Malembo, part of Chakwera’s stronghold, a 94-year-old woman was among some early voters and she told reporters “she wanted change.”
Another elderly couple, was ferried to the polling centre in an oxcart.
In most polling centers, the presiding officers and monitors indicated election materials were adequate and additionally, soap and sanitizers were provided to fight the coronavirus.
Voters had also been encouraged to use their pens apart from the shared ones provided by the commission to tick for their preferred candidate but there was little social distancing experienced on the queues across the capital.
Apart from Mutharika and Chakwera, candidate Peter Kuwani completes the list of candidates but carries no hope of even garnering 2 percent of the vote, according to projections.
Mutharika, who came to power in 2014 after defeating Joyce Banda in another disputed election, is expected to tally 33 percent of the vote, according to a poll by Institute for Public Opinion and Research (IPOR), a respected think–tank based in Zomba.
MCP—Malawi’s oldest political party which left power 26 years ago after a 31-year iron-fist one-party dictatorship led by Malawi’s first president Hastings Kamuzu Banda—is facing unexpected renaissance.
Chakwera’s party is popular in central region districts of the country while Chilima, a former corporate executive, is more popular among youth and urbanites.
In February, Malawi became the second African country after Kenya to nullify presidential election with the courts analyzing tones of evidence of electoral irregularities.