The opposition alliance candidate Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in yesterday as president of Malawi after a fiercely disputed, 13-month-long battle to overturn the result of an election held in May 2019.
The previous incumbent, President Peter Mutharika, was declared the winner of a 21 May 2019 presidential poll with 38.57% of the vote to Chakwera’s 35.41%.
The official majority was fewer than 159,000 votes, out of a population of 18 million.
Ten candidates registered to stand for the presidency; seven names eventually appeared on the ballot paper.
Street protests erupt
Mutharika was duly sworn in on 27 May.
Opposition activists, led by Chakwera for the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement, challenged the results in court.
Clashes broke out between supporters of Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party and opposition activists as thousands of Malawians hit the streets to publicise allegations of inaccurate vote tallying and voter intimidation.
Months of protests and civil unrest followed.
Supreme court steps in
The Constitutional Court, the highest in Malawi, ordered a rerun of the election after it found that the original ballot had been marred by irregularities. The country finally went to the polls again on Tuesday (23 June).
This time Mutharika faced just one other candidate: Chakwera, now representing the Tonse Alliance, a nine-party opposition coalition encompassing his own Malawi Congress Party as well as the Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy, led by the second most prominent opposition leader, Peter Kuwani.
Early indications suggested Chakwera had won the rerun convincingly, securing a clear majority. On Saturday night (27 June) the Malawi Electoral Commission announced in Blantyre, the commercial capital, that he had won the election by a landslide, with 58.57% of the vote.
Chakwera, a Pentecostal preacher and former theology lecturer, told the BBC that his new role would be to unite and serve Malawians.
“I do feel like Lazarus,” he said. “I’ve come back from the dead. It’s been a long journey and we feel vindicated in a way.”