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Malawi Protesters Call for Electoral Commission's Head to Step Down

Protesters marching along the streets during demonstrations in Lilongwe, June 29, 2019. (L. Masina)

Nearly 15,000 opposition supporters brought business to a standstill in the capital Lilongwe as they marched to the Capitol Hill, the seat of government offices.

They wanted to present a petition, demanding the resignation of election commission chief Jane Ansah. However, government representatives stayed in their offices.

Human Rights Defenders Forum deputy chairperson Gift Trapence said protesters will maintain the pressure until Ansah resigns.

“If she is not resigning we are coming back into streets. When going back into streets, we are not going anywhere. We will have vigils even at her own house,” he said.

The Malawi Electoral Commission denies any vote-rigging in the May 21 election.

The MEC declared Mutharika won re-election with 39 percent of the vote, while opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera was a close second with 35 percent.

Vice President Saulos Chilima was third with 20 percent.

Both Chakwera and Chilima, who are challenging the results in court, joined the Thursday protests.

“This is about Malawi," said Chilima speaking to reporters. "Dr. Chakwera is Malawian, I am Malawian, so we have joined fellow Malawians to demonstrate against evil. We are not happy with the way the elections were managed, therefore we have to demonstrate that we are not happy.”

MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera (in black) and Saulos Chilima of UTM (in red) join protesters, June 20, 2019. (L. Masina)
MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera (in black) and Saulos Chilima of UTM (in red) join protesters, June 20, 2019. (L. Masina)

Chakwera said he participated for the sake of solidarity.

“This is our constitutional mandate, the court issue is not an either/or. It is both and, and people are free to demonstrate according to our constitution," he said.

The demonstration was not entirely peaceful. Some protesters forced their way into the parliament building. where they pulled down national flags at Mutharika’s portrait.

In the meantime, the protesters have vowed prevent Mutharika from opening parliament on Friday until court issues are concluded.