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May 30, 2014

Malawi's Mutharika Declared Winner of Disputed Presidential Poll

by VOA News

Election officials in Malawi have declared opposition leader Peter Mutharika the winner of last week's disputed presidential election.

The Malawi Electoral Commission announced the results late Friday in Blantyre, just hours after protesters demanding a vote recount clashed with police in the southern town of Mangochi. The violence left at least one person dead.

The final tally shows Mutharika, of the Democratic Progressive Party, winning with just over 36 percent of the vote, and Malawi Congress Party candidate Lazrous Chakwera with about 29 percent.  

Incumbent President Joyce Banda finished third, with slightly more than 20 percent of the vote.

Mutharika, the brother of late President Bingu wa Mutharika, is set to be sworn in Saturday, with an inauguration ceremony slated for Sunday.

Banda, a former vice president, assumed the presidency two years ago when Bingu wa Mutharika  passed away.

The May 20 vote was plagued by problems, including polling stations opening late and inaccuracies on ballots. The irregularities prompted the election commission to extend voting into a second day, and then into a third day in some areas.

Incumbent President Banda said the election was rife with fraud, including ballot-rigging and people voting more than once.

She had ordered a new election within 90 days and said she would not be a candidate. The High Court overruled her, however, when the main opposition party complained.

On Thursday, Banda told Reuters she was ready to step down if the court ratified the election and her chief opponent, Mutharika, turned out to be the winner. She said, though, she still believed the election was fraudulent.