Blantyre - Democratic Progressive Party leader Peter
Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi's disputed presidential election on
Friday after defeating President Joyce Banda.
Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa
Mutharika, took 36.4% of the votes cast against Banda's 20.2%, the electoral
The results were announced minutes after the high court
refused a last-ditch attempt to block their release and allow time for a
Electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera declared Mutharika
"president-elect" after last week's vote, which Banda said was marred
by "serious irregularities" and "null and void".
The results showed that Banda was beaten into third place by
Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), garnering 27.8% of the
Party spokesperson Jessie Kabwila told AFP the MCP, which
had made the bid for a recount, would challenge the results in court.
"We are disappointed because this is not a credible
election. We will fight through legal means...we are not taking this lying
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
Banda prevailed and took office as decreed by the
constitution, booting the former foreign minister out of the administration.
Mutharika, a law professor and former cabinet minister,
faces additional counts of inciting a mutiny and conspiracy to commit a felony,
along with other officials.
The trial is still pending, but analysts say it is likely
the case will be set aside as Malawi's presidents enjoy immunity from
prosecution as long as they are in office.
There is speculation that once Mutharika is in power he could
turn the tables on Banda and have her charged with corruption over a $30m graft
scandal dubbed "Cashgate".
Banda has claimed the credit for uncovering the fraud, which
saw aid money siphoned into top government officials' pockets. But critics,
including Mutharika, say the funds went into her party's election war-chest.
"Banda did everything in her power to prevent Mutharika
from becoming president... and then bringing charges against her," said
Clive Gabay of the Queen Mary University of London.
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
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
One person was killed when police fired teargas and rubber
bullets at protesters demanding a recount in the southeastern town of Mangochi.
A teenager was "killed by a teargas canister, which
exploded in his hands as he was trying to throw it back at us," Mangochi
police officer Elijah Kachikuwo told AFP.
The election imbroglio is unlikely to help Malawi's dire
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.