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Could Malawi's historic re-run election inspire Africa?

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AFP

July 5 2020

The opposition triumph in Malawi's recent landmark election re-run after last year's fraudulent polls were overturned could spur similar democratic change across the continent, analysts and historians say.

Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party comfortably won the June 23 election with 58.5% of the vote -- beating Peter Mutharika, whose re-election last year was nullified by the courts over "widespread and systematic" irregularities.

Chakwera's official inauguration is set for Monday, to coincide with the country's 56th anniversary of independence from Britain.

The election set the impoverished African country apart from many on the continent, making it only the second sub-Saharan African country to have presidential election results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017.

It was also the first time in Africa that an election re-run has led to the defeat of an incumbent.

The unprecedented political feat was credited to a cohesion of several powerful forces -- including the resilience of the judiciary that handed down the historic judgement.

In extraordinary scenes, Constitutional Court judges came sporting bullet-proof jackets and under military escort to deliver the ruling on February 3 overturning Mutharika's re-election.

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On Point: Malawi Shows the World How to Fix a Crooked Election

Austin Bay

July 6 2020

In May 2019, Peter Mutharika, incumbent president in the southern African nation of Malawi, claimed a narrow reelection victory over opposition challenger Lazarus Chakwera.

Malawians, however, reported "voting irregularities." Investigators found altered vote tallies and evidence of tampering. A majority of the country concluded Chakwera had defeated Mutharika.

Incensed Malawians began nationwide nonviolent protests. Despite threats by Mutharika supporters, "stolen election" demonstrations persisted, in rural towns as well as cities.

Since he retained the title of president, Mutharika believed he controlled the guns and the courts. The protests would fade.

He learned otherwise. Malawi's military, the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) and the Malawi Police Service, watched the country carefully, keeping order but not taking sides. The opposition appealed to Malawi's highest court, the Constitutional Court. MDF commanders made it clear their service, as protectors of the constitution, would protect the court's justices and respect the court's decision.

Ignoring intimidation and enticements (Mutharika offered splendid early retirement), in February 2020, the court annulled the 2019 results as tainted and ordered new elections in June 2020 -- the Fresh Presidential Election.

(Snip)

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