|23. May 2009
President Hails Malawi Polls
Harare — President Mugabe yesterday hailed Malawi's just-ended elections as free and fair, saying the process was a good example of how polls can be conducted peacefully.
Speaking to journalists at Chileka International Airport after attending the swearing-in of President Bingu wa Mutharika in Blantyre, President Mugabe said the results of the elections reflected the will of the people of Malawi.
"From what we have heard and seen on television, the elections were held freely and fairly, the result is a valid result.
"It's an example to all of us that elections can be held without violence. The people (of Malawi) have spoken, the people have expressed their will," said President Mugabe, who was applauded when he entered Kamuzu Stadium for the swearing-in ceremony.
President Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party won with 2,7 million votes against his closest rival Mr John Tembo's 1,27 million votes while the DPP was also poised for victory in the parliamentary elections, whose results were still being finalised by yesterday.
Cde Mugabe said in Africa despite the fairness of an electoral process such as witnessed in Malawi, opposition parties would always complain.
He, however, hailed former president Mr Bakili Muluzi, who conceded defeat and attended President Mutharika's swearing-in at Kamuzu Stadium. Mr Muluzi, of the United Democratic Front, backed Mr Tembo of the Malawi Congress Party in the presidential race.
President Mugabe and his delegation, which included Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and senior Government officials, returned home yesterday evening.
President Mutharika and his running mate Mrs Joyce Banda were sworn in before a packed Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre which included President Mugabe, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, President Rupiah Banda of Zambia, Tanzanian Vice President Ali Mohammed Shein, Swazi Prime Minister Absolom Dlamini and Rwandese Premier Bernard Makuza.
Addressing the gathering, President Mutharika hailed the people of Malawi for giving him a chance to serve a second term and called on the nation to put aside political differences to work for dialogue and reconciliation following a gruelling election campaign.
"I thank you for the trust and confidence you have shown in me and my party to govern this country for the next five years," he said to the cheering crowd.
President Mutharika said he would continue with the development agenda that his government pursued in the first five years of his term through enhancing economic growth.
The Malawian leader won the election on the back of a growing economy and a fertilizer subsidy scheme that has helped the country overcome food shortages and record surpluses in staple maize harvests over the last few years.
Malawi's economy has grown by an average of 7 percent since President Mutharika took over and last year recorded an impressive 9,7 percent growth.
Mr Mutharika said the elections showed Malawi's democracy was maturing.
"We have confounded even our worst critics," he said.
During his campaign, President Mutharika conducted whistle-stop tours, which were more like road shows, and would get rousing applauses from the people.
A few days before polling, he made a surprise visit to the Lilongwe tobacco auction floors in Kanengo and personally confronted heads of tobacco-buying companies, demanding answers on why they were offering low prices.
President Mutharika inspected the bales that had been sold to check the price before confronting the authorities on why they were not complying with prices which had been mutually agreed.