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Malawians Expect Final Election Results Thursday

The Malawi Electoral Commission will hold a news conference Thursday morning perhaps to announce the final results of Tuesday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

In preliminary results released Wednesday from 31 of the 193 voting centers, the commission said incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika had 335 thousand 752 votes compared to 78 thousand 803 for his main challenger John Tembo who heads a coalition of the Malawi Congress Party and United Democratic Front party.

But Tembo reportedly said Wednesday that he was rejecting results from his party’s stronghold in the central region because of irregularities in the vote counting.

A spokesman for President Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) denied the claim, saying Tuesday’s election was transparent.

Rafiq Hajat, executive director of the Institute for Policy Interaction in Malawi said President Mutharika has got a landslide lead over his main challenger.

“By and large with the results that have been both announced and the results that are being displayed, you can surmise that it looks like a tsunami victory for the incumbent, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika. Basically it shows a huge preponderance of votes in his favor,” he said.

Hajat said he observed two interesting trends from the results announced so far.

“The trends that are emerging show that people are making a difference between the parliamentary candidates and the presidential candidates. The second aspect is that the regional, ethnic and tribal lines that used to influence votes are becoming blurred, and Malawians seem to be voting as a nation rather than as three regions cobbled haphazardly together. It shows that there is a synergy occurring,” Hajat said.

He said the whole process appeared to have gone smoothly with the exception of a few anomalies.

“There is some concern here at the national tally center because of the delay in displaying votes…one then wonders why an independent radio station by the name of Joy Radio was closed down by armed policemen, and another radio called the DPP Radio, almost an ad hoc radio station has been broadcasting unofficial results despite the electoral commission undertaking that no radio station should be allowed to broadcast unofficial results,” he said.

Hajat said President Mutharika will also win a majority of seats in parliament by making deals with parliamentarians from smaller political parties.

But he said a two-thirds parliamentary majority would be bad for Malawi democracy.

“One does hope that he doesn’t attain the two-thirds majority with which it will be possible to effect any constitutional amendment that he requires. I can safely say that one-party dominance looks like it has returned with a vengeance,” Hajat said.

He said the electoral commission will likely declare President Mutharika winner of the election. After that, Hajat said it would be up to the new government to choose which direction it would want to take the country.