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Malawi President Joyce Banda demands manual vote recount, alleges ‘massive rigging’

“These irregularities include non-availability and non-inspection of the voter registers at some polling centres; and using information technology to block communication devices of some monitors and thereby limiting the monitors’ ability to effectively carry out their duties.”

She also said an unnamed party has infiltrated and hacked the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) counting system. But the Malawi Electoral Commission has since dismissed the President’s allegations.

“Our electronic counting system has crashed, yes, and last night we migrated to our Plan B – manual counting of the results, so I wonder why the People’s  Party is complaining since we have not announced any results yet,” said MEC Chairman Supreme Court of Appeal judge Maxon Mbendera.

Asked when MEC is going to release the results, Mbendera said: “We are going to give the official results after we have finished tabulation; we expect that in the next two to three days we should have a clear picture. We are required by law to announce the results within eight days.”

Voting was still going on in two polling centres in the commercial capital, Blantyre, and one in the capital, Lilongwe, two days after the official polling closed. Voting was disrupted at these centres when MEC delayed distributing polling material. Frustrated voters set alight one polling station and smashed polling materials at another, all in Blantyre.

Mbendera condemned the arson and rioting, threatening to cancel elections if the violence recurs.

“The police and the army have tightened security in all polling centres; the Commission condemns in the strongest terms the tendency of some overzealous  persons to disturb polling. May I send a warning that the Commission will not hesitate to cancel elections in all centres where violence recurs. Let  me emphasise that this is an electoral offence and perpetrators will be prosecuted,” he said.

Asked whether the late voting will not affect the electoral process, Mbendera said the late voting represents only 1.03 percent of the process. “The problems are considerable but not significant; the postponed vote was just one percent of the entire vote. These elections are extremely free and fair,”  he said.

But President Joyce Banda said she was worried that the process has been compromised. She blamed the electoral body of ‘serious’ irregularities in the counting and announcement of results, saying the Constitution stipulates that the voting process is supposed to be conducted within a day. 

“I’m greatly concerned with the emerging picture witnessed after the polling day…I’m also aware of the concerns that the continued announcements of the poll results from the votes cast on 20 May by the media could have influenced the voting that took place on the second day,” she said.

Banda, 64 – Africa’s second female president who came to power in April 2013 following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, is facing possible defeat at the hands of Mutharika’s younger brother, Washington State constitutional law professor Peter Mutharika, 74. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate is neck-and-neck with Lazarus Chakwera, the 59-year-old cleric-turned-politician who is marshalling the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of founding president, the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Joyce Banda is running on the ticket of the People’s Party (PP) which she founded after being kicked out of the DPP when she resisted the anointment of the younger Mutharika as President Mutharika’s successor when he was due to retire after the Tuesday poll.

Former president Bakili Muluzi’s son, Atupele Muluzi – who, at 35, is the youngest presidential candidate in the history of Malawi, is also in the running under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF) founded by his father.

Eight other candidates, including one other woman, are also running.-AGV

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