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Malawians vote in fresh presidential election

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SAID SOLDIERS ALWAYS READY—Chiphwanya

It had to take Malawi Congress Party President Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima to convince the courts that the 2019 presidential election was married by irregularities for Malawians to be voting today.

A panel of five High Court judges sitting as a Constitutional Court nullified President Peter Mutharika’s last year’s re-election and ordered a fresh poll within 150 days from February 3 when it delivered its judgement which was later upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

And the D-day is finally here.

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Mutharika, who has partnered Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front, is competing against Chakwera who is going to the poll with Chilima— in their Tonse Alliance—and Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development.

For the first time, the Malawi Electoral Commission is going to determine a winner of this fresh poll using the 50%+1 system following the courts’ interpretation that that is the meaning of the term ‘majority’ as reflected in the Constitution.

Our assessment of the levels of preparedness in many parts of the country indicates that by the time we went to press, most district and city councils were ready for the election as almost all polling materials had been delivered at the polling centres.

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There was clear evidence of tight security at many centres across the country which is being provided by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers supported by personnel from the Immigration Department and the Malawi Prison Service.

MDF spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya said the soldiers are always ready to fulfill their mandate as prescribed by law.

On his part, National Police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, said the security institution has put in place strict measures to ensure the safety and security of voters, polling staff and polling materials.

“All voters are advised to return to their respective homes after casting their votes and wait for official announcement of results by Mec,” reads a statement that Kadadzera issued Monday.

Random checks in councils of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Karonga, Nsanje, Zomba Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota indicated that almost all the polling materials were delivered and that everything was set for polling.

In Blantyre, there was an incident where a vehicle that Mec had hired to transport polling materials caught fire near Limbe Cathedral yesterday.

But, according to a public notice from the electoral body’s chairperson, Chifundo Kachale, the truck was empty the time it caught fire.

“No person was hurt. The truck had just been hired and was on its way to Thyolo where it was assigned to pick polling material from the constituency to the polling stations,” Kachale said in the notice.

Meanwhile, in Nkhotakota, police are keeping in custody 16 men for questioning on allegations that they were planning to disrupt the election.

Our reporter in that district said the men were arrested yesterday after being intercepted by angry people who accused them of acting suspiciously at a gas station.

The men in question allegedly dropped from a vehicle and said they had come to monitor the election with some of them claiming they were former MDF soldiers before genuine soldiers who were around the place ‘disowned’ them.

Nkhotakota Police Officer-in- Charge, Timothy Phiri, confirmed the arrest but refused to shed more light, saying investigations were still underway by the time we went to press.

Elsewhere, a network of governance institutions comprising the Public Affairs Committee, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and the National Initiative for Civic Education Trust yesterday unveiled an election situation room to track election incidents from polling centres in real time and provide intervention support.

Chairperson of the consortium, Boniface Chibwana, urged Malawians to cautiously consume information and news content during the election period saying disinformation, fake news and misinformation about the election are expected to be rampant.

“We, therefore, call upon Malawians to rely on credible and verified information from credible sources and avoid further spread of fake news related to the election,” Chibwana said.

The European Union has also joined the African Union in calling upon Mec, all political parties, candidates and their supporters to create conditions for a credible, inclusive, transparent and peaceful election and to refrain from any act of violence.

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