Malawians turn up to vote in tripartite elections
21 May 2019, 18:35 ( 25 days ago)
Malawians across the country on Tuesday queued up to cast ballots that will determine which party is to rule the country in the next five years.
An estimated 6.8 million registered voters will head to the polls to elect a president, members of parliament and local government councilors.
According to figures, incumbent President Peter Mutharika, 78, is being challenged by six other candidates, among them his vice-president Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) and Lazarus Chakwera of the main opposition, Malawi Congress Party. For the parliamentary election, 193 seats are contested among 1,331 candidates.
Mutharika, who was elected for his first term in 2014, is seeking his second and last term in office and his hope is in rural votes where he has promised to turn around the agriculture sector.
The elections are being held under the new Political Parties Act of 2018 in over 5,000 polling centers across the country.
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) said on Tuesday that the voting process has so far progressed well with no disturbances.
Justice Jane Ansah, MEC chairperson said most of the 5,002 polling stations around the country opened within the stipulated time of 06:00 a.m. except for a few and that those that opened late will be given some extra time to compensate for lost time.
"It is expected that voting will continue undisturbed until polling closes at 6 p.m. this evening except for polling centers that have been opened later than 6 a.m.," Ansah said in a press release.
Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday expressed happiness with the peaceful way the elections process has so far gone.
Mutharika, who arrived around 10:00 a.m. to cast his vote at Goliath Polling Station in Thyolo district, 45 kilometers south of Blantyre, said reports received from different parts of the country indicate that the process has been peaceful.
At the Tax Office Polling Station in Blantyre, one of the biggest polling stations in the city, queues formed as early as 05:00 hours as voters turned up early to cast their votes.
"I am happy that I have voted. I came here as early as 04:00 a.m. I have been waiting for this time because voting gives us an opportunity to choose a government of our choice," Nelson Bunyani, a voter at the polling station who was among the early voters told Xinhua.
Analysts and locals have indicated that it is mainly a two-man race between Mutharika and his vice, while Chakwera is believed to stand a chance to cause an upset.
While the pre-election period has generally been peaceful except for a few pockets of violence, some stakeholders have complained of attempts to rig the polls especially by the government party.
Patricia Kaliati secretary-general of the opposition UTM told local media, The Nation on Sunday that the MEC has not handled most of the complaints the party lodged, including allegations of some parties buying voter cards.
"We have lodged several complaints regarding some malpractices, chiefs campaigning for the ruling party," she is quoted as saying.
In a statement released to the local media, Malawi Electoral Support Network chairperson said the rigging claims by some parties have the potential to affect the credibility of the elections.
But the electoral body has assured of holding a credible and transparent elections and that it is ready to hold the elections.
MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah assured that it was ready to hold transparent and credible elections and that all was set for the polls.
She told journalists during a press briefing on Monday that the distribution of both electoral materials and personnel to conduct the elections have been concluded and that the electoral body expects the voters to turn up in large numbers and exercise their democratic rights to choose a government of their choice.
She further assured that the electoral body has done everything possible to ensure that it delivers a free and transparency electoral process and dispelled reports of attempts to rig the elections, saying the reports were baseless and without facts.
The claims, she said, were only meant to discourage voters from exercising their rights to vote.
She further said elections results will be announced within eight days and that the electoral body would be pressurized but would ensure that it does a good job and announces credible results.
"MEC will not be in a hurry to announce results in order to do a thorough job," she said.