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Malawi to recount votes after fraud claims

25 May 2014, 15:05

Blantyre - Vote counting continued on Sunday in Malawi after this week's general election despite an attempt by President Joyce Banda to stop the counting and call a new election within 90 days.

The initial count after Tuesday's vote was to be followed by a recount to make sure the result was not influenced by fraud, as alleged by Banda. The president said on Saturday she had ordered the electoral commission to stop counting the votes in order to hold a new election in which she would no longer contest the presidency.

But the electoral commission, the Law Society of Malawi and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - the forerunner in the poll - obtained a court injunction ordering the vote count to continue. Electoral commission chairperson Maxon Mbendera said it had agreed with the political parties that concerns over fraud can be resolved by a recount.

"The commission [has] reported that in the course of vote tallying, there are cases being discovered where the total number of votes cast is more than the total registered voters for the centre," Mbendera said late on Saturday.

"There will be an implementation plan for the recount of the ballot papers early next week," he added.

Election chaos

The recount does not mean the electoral commission will abandon the current vote counting exercise.

"This will be pursued to the end, but results will not be announced until the vote recount outcome is known and compared with" the original count, Mbendera said.

At least 30% of the votes have been counted so far, showing that Banda - leader of the People's Party (PP) - was trailing behind two other candidates. The front-runner was the DPP's Peter Mutharika, brother of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika, followed by Lazarus Chakwera, an evangelical pastor from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Malawi's election was chaotic, with people still voting two days after election day because of delays in the distribution of voting material. In the commercial capital Blantyre, angry voters set a polling station alight. Banda alleged the vote had been marred by rigging, multiple voting and computer hacking.

Banda rose from the vice presidency to the presidency after Bingu wa Mutharika's sudden death in 2012. She won applause from the West for her austerity policies, but her rule was later tainted by a massive corruption scandal, which led to donors slashing aid that had made up 40% of Malawi's budget.



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