One dead, Malawi Police fire rubber bullets: Donors appeal for calm

One person is reported dead and several people are being treated at Mangochi District Hospital with multiple injuries following demonstrations that started Friday morning as the country nervously awaited the release of results from last week’s disputed presidential vote.

Police officer Elijah Kachikuwo said: “In the ensuing fracas one person has been shot dead as police tried to defend themselves after being overpowered by angry protesters.”

The demonstrators say they do not want Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to announce the disputed presidential election results which according to them are “rigged”.

Over a hundred people “are burning tyres along the roads of Mangochi eastern lakeshore district,” police spokesman for Mangochi Rodrick Maida said.

Rioters in Mangochi: Tensions rise as Malawi awaits results of disputed vote
Rioters in Mangochi: Tensions rise as Malawi awaits results of disputed vote

“They are saying the election was rigged. We are dispersing them using teargas,” he added.

Police said the protesters were members of the People’s Party of President Joyce Banda and Lazarus Chakwera’s Malawi Congress Party, both of which have called for a recount.

The High Court is due to decide on Friday whether the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should announce the result, which Banda’s opponent is likely to have won, or if it should recount ballots, a process that could take two months.

Early results show a lead for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Peter Mutharika, 74, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.

In the commercial city Blantyre where the High Court is sitting for elections case and a National Voter Tally centre is, anti-riot police were stationed at strategic areas.

The electoral commission has admitted having come across evidence of “anomalies”, but its boss Maxon Mbendera said 99 percent of the voting was “trouble-free”.

He has vowed to release the results by the end of Friday in compliance with the electoral laws, unless the court intervenes to force a 30-day extension for a recount.

But Mutharika’s party has teamed up with the electoral commission lawyers to prevent a 30-day extension.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s cooperating partners have called for calm and respect for rule of the law.

“We call on all Malawians, particularly political leaders and their supporters, to exercise calm and restraint as the High Court considers the next phase of the electoral process,” reads a statement signed by heads of diplomatic missions, Incuding Australia, Britain, Canada, Delegation of the European Union, Germany, Ireland, Japan, United States of America and Royal Norwegian Embassy.

“We highlight the commitments made by all political leaders in the 10 May Lilongwe Peace Declaration. Going forward, we urge all parties, citizens and authorities to respect the legal and constitutional process, rise above personal and party interest and ensure Malawi’s reputation for stability and peace continues.”

Last week’s poll had been plagued by problems from the outset, with voting materials turning up hours late and ballot papers being sent to the wrong parts of the country. Organisers had to extend voting in some urban areas for a second day and initial counting was delayed by power outages and a lack of generators at polling stations.

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