31.5.2014

Mutharika wins Malawi's disputed presidential poll

Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, took 36.4% of the votes cast against Banda’s 20.2%, the electoral commission said. The results were announced minutes after the high court refused a last-ditch attempt to block their release and allow time for a recount. The results showed that Banda was beaten into third place by Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who garnered 27.8% of the vote. Party spokesperson Jessie Kabwila told Agence France-Presse the MCP, which had made the bid for a recount, would challenge the results in court.
Mutharika is set to take the reins of the impoverished Southern African country under the shadow of a treason charge. The 74-year-old brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika is accused of attempting to conceal his brother’s death in office two years ago in an attempt to prevent Banda – then vice-president – from assuming power. Banda prevailed and took office as decreed by the Constitution, booting the former foreign minister out of the administration.
The election in the tiny Southern African nation was dogged by controversy from the start with some polling stations opening 10 hours late and some voting stations recording more votes than there were registered voters. Anyone with complaints has seven days to lodge petitions with the courts. Riot police patrolled key areas of the commercial capital Blantyre as the results were announced after earlier demonstrations turned violent.
The election imbroglio is unlikely to help Malawi’s dire economic problems. After taking office Banda oversaw the devaluation of the kwacha currency by 50%, the easing of foreign exchange restrictions, along with the raising of fuel prices and cutting of subsidies. That helped restore an IMF credit line, but the country remains overly dependent on agriculture and foreign aid to survive.
Mutharika has said he will not pursue trickle-down economics, but will implement “bottom-up economics aimed at getting the poor out of poverty into prosperity”. Some 7.5-million people were eligible to choose a president, lawmakers and local government councillors in the fifth democratic polls since the end of decades of one-party rule in 1994. (Mail & Guardian)

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