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Malawi opposition leaders file bids for election re-run

FILE PHOTO: President Peter Mutharika win was stated null when court overturned last year’s vote and called for fresh polls, citing widespread irregularities

Blantyre, Malawi | AFP | Malawi’s two main opposition figures on Wednesday presented nomination papers for a re-run in July of elections that saw President Peter Mutharika controversially returned to office.

The southern African country made history in February when its top court overturned last year’s vote and called for fresh polls, citing widespread irregularities.

Supporters came out in the streets of Malawi’s second city Blantyre as main opposition party leader Lazarus Chakwera and opposition candidate Saulos Chilima went to present their nomination papers.

Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) came a close second to Mutharika last May 21, garnering 35 percent of the vote, while Chilima’s United Transformation Movement (UTM) came third with 20 percent.

The MCP and the UTM have since joined forces to increase their chances of unseating the president.

“We have a date with destiny,” said Chakwera, a retired Baptist preacher, addressing supporters.

“Many dark forces have laboured to prevent this election but they have failed,” he said. “Our destiny is a new Malawi that benefits everyone.”

“This is what has brought me and Saulos together,” Chakwera added. “Not as rivals but as partners in the service of Malawi.”

Chilima served as Mutharika’s vice-president before falling out with the government and founding his own party.

Several smaller parties have joined the pair’s alliance, including the former president Joyce Banda’s Peoples Party.

Mutharika is scheduled to present his nomination papers on Thursday.

Both the president and the electoral commission have appealed against the election annulment.

Mutharika has denounced the landmark ruling as a “serious miscarriage of justice” and an “attack on the foundations of the country’s democracy”.

He has also refused assent to the proposed electoral law amendments, notably one that requires a more than 50 percent majority to secure a win.

It is the first time a presidential election has been challenged on legal grounds in Malawi since independence from Britain in 1964.

Ten candidates are expected to run in the new election, which has been set for July 2.

That date could be pushed back by the appeals and the coronavirus outbreak.

To date Malawi has recorded 38 cases of COVID-19, including three deaths.

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