News / Africa

Malawians Cast Votes, Triggering Unrest

A woman receives a mark on her finger with indelible ink prior to vote for Malawi's Tripartite elections at Malemia School Polling center, the home village of the incumbent president, May 20, 2014.
A woman receives a mark on her finger with indelible ink prior to vote for Malawi's Tripartite elections at Malemia School Polling center, the home village of the incumbent president, May 20, 2014.
Lameck Masina
— Unrest has marred elections in Malawi on Tuesday, where incumbent leader Joyce Banda is facing stiff challenges from 11 candidates in the first democratic test of her rule.

Soldiers were deployed in the commercial capital, Blantyre, on Tuesday after angry voters set fires at some polling stations and blocked roads. Protesters alleged fraud, after some polling stations opened late. Some protesters also complained that names had been left off election ballots.

Police eventually contained the situation.

Incumbent is front-runner

In the absence of reliable opinion polls, most analysts rank Banda, leader of the People's Party, as the favored candidate because of her popularity in rural areas where she has been rolling out development projects and farm subsidies.

After casting her ballot in the southern village of Malemia, Banda urged all sides to keep calm.

“I'm thankful that the campaign period was peaceful and am urging all Malawians to vote peacefully today without any incident or loss of life,” she told reporters.

She rose to power two years ago when her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, suddenly died in office. At the time, she was serving as vice president.

Her main challengers include Mutharika's brother, Peter, former cleric Lazarus Chakwera, and Atupele Muluzi, who is the son of former Malawian president Bakili Muluzi. All three of their parties have previously won the presidency.

Large turnout

Despite the anomalies, there has been a huge turnout, especially in rural areas.

Before the voting got underway, election commission chairman Justice Maxon Mbendera told VOA the polling would be credible and transparent, despite concerns about a new voters' list.

"They should have confidence that we are doing all we can to bring about an election that is credible, that is free and fair. And my plea to them is to come out in their large numbers to select and choose the leaders of their choice," said Mbendera. "This is an election, a mother of all elections in Malawi."

According to Gilbert Museliwa, who voted at the Goliati polling center in the southern district of Thyolo, expectations are high regardless of which candidate wins.

“I am very excited to have cast the ballot for the leaders I want to lead me. I have also voted for a ward council who has a clear vision of development," said Museliwa. "My expectation is that the new president should be able to do what people want and that is the person I have voted for and that is my expectations of the new leader.”

Another voter, Gertrude Lungu, said the voting was peaceful, but complained about the slow voting process.

“The slowness is generally because of lack of materials, because of the eight streams that they were supposed to have at this center only two are operating, meaning that only two people are voting at a time against the expected eight people,” she said.

A presiding officer at the center, Charles Tembo, said the problem has been communicated to the Thyolo District commissioner, who assured them it would be sorted out as soon as possible.

Malawi Electoral Commission officials told VOA that they are hoping to quickly rectify all the polling station problems.  

By law, election results are to be released within seven days after voting.

'Cashgate' weighs

Banda initially enjoyed goodwill from the many who resented Mutharika's autocratic style, allowing her to win the backing of foreign donors, along with the International Monetary Fund, when she pushed through austerity measures, including a sharp devaluation of the kwacha designed to stabilize the farming-dependent economy.

Urban voters, however, have criticized Banda's response as ponderous. Her relations with some donors have soured.

More recently, however, her administration's reputation has been hit by a $15 million graft scandal; dubbed "Cashgate," if followed the discovery of large amounts of money in the car of a senior government official.

More than 80 people have been arrested and a former cabinet minister has been dismissed and put on trial for money laundering and attempted murder.

Tuesday's ballot also includes elections for parliamentarians and local government officials.

Some information for this report comes from Reuters.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: tiö from: south africa
May 22, 2014 8:17 AM
why cant people just accept defeat rather than try 2 prove something that is not true


by: tripple malawi from: lilongwe
May 20, 2014 10:32 PM
I wound love DR Chakwera to win for good politics


by: Tarsitius Chilekwa from: lusaka
May 20, 2014 4:37 PM
I would love joyce to win and finish her programmes. Government must not be changeed like undrrwears

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid