Thousands of Malawians troop out to cast votes

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Voters in Malawi have already started casting their ballots today in crucial presidential election rerun pitting incumbent Peter Mutharika and opposition coalition leader Lazarus Chakwera.

Today’s vote was necessitated after courts nullified the results of the May 2019 election. Some 6.8 million Malawians are eligible to cast ballots at more than 5,000 polling stations across the country.

The Constitutional Court on Feb. 3, 2020, ordered that the election be held again, ruling that the first results were not valid because of widespread evidence of irregularities and vote tampering.

The court struck down the victory of incumbent President Peter Mutharika citing evidence of voting fraud, including thousands of ballots that appeared to have been altered using typing correction fluid. The ruling was upheld by the Malawi Supreme Court.

In the 2019 polls, seven presidential candidates contested but now the number has come down to two. The 79-year-old Mutharika, looking for a second and final five-year term in office is up against the leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, 65.

Incumbent Vice President Saulos Chilima was also expected to run, but he decided instead stand as Chakwera’s vice-president, in a bid to maximize chances of unseating Mutharika.

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

A local newspaper The Nation referred to the vote as a “Defining Moment” for the southern African country.

Malawi is one of few African countries that has still recorded below 1,000 coronavirus cases as of today. The official caseload stood at 749 cases.

Photos and videos of people at voting centres showed a disregard for health protocols as people were crammed together in long winding lines without the physical distancing rules, very few people were seen wearing masks including top politicians.

The Malawi Electoral Commission officers were however seen in gloves and masks as they administered voting procedures and materials to members of the public.

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