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Malawians vote

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By Madalitso Musa:

The wait is over. About 6.8 million Malawians are today voting in the second presidential, parliamentary and Local Government elections.

This year’s tripartite elections have been the most anticipated and are likely to be the most fiercely contested for, with seven candidates vying for the presidency.

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One hundred and ninety-three and 462 parliamentary and Local Government seats, respectively, await to be taken.

President Peter Mutharika, 78, who leads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is facing competition from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) torchbearer Lazarus Chakwera, 64, who narrowly lost to Mutharika in the controversial 2014 elections.

Chilima

Mutharika is also being challenged by two former members of his Cabinet as Vice President Saulos Chilima, 46, who is leading UTM, and Atupele Muluzi, 40, president of United Democratic Front (UDF), look to depose their former boss.

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Also contesting for the hot seat are Umodzi Party’s John Chisi, Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy’s Peter Kuwani and independent Reverend Kaliya.

The run up to the elections has not been short of controversy, with pockets of violent incidents registered as well as accusations and counter-accusations of intentions to rig.

Political parties have, however, encouraged their supporters to ignore all rigging claims and concentrate on exercising their right to choose leaders.

DPP publicity secretary, Nicholas Dausi, appealed to supporters to exercise restraint so that the country has peaceful elections.

“DPP is very much prepared to go for voting and we have requested all supporters to go [to vote] en masse. DPP is a peaceful party and we do not want any person to dent our image because we will win,” Dausi said.

On rigging attempt allegations, Dausi appealed to supporters not to be discouraged from voting.

“Forget about what other parties are doing. They are creating stories [about rigging] because they know they have already failed. They are continuing creating political conjectures, but our supporters are steadfast and see themselves as political navigators who will sail through until the horizon is clear,” Dausi said.

MCP publicity secretary, Maurice Munthali, said the party had learnt from the past losses and put its house in order, leaving no room for defeat by whatever means.

“If you remember, Malawi Congress Party came second in 2014, on top of allegations of rigging [by other parties]. There are several reasons we learnt from the 2014 elections, so we made sure that we seal all the loopholes,” Munthali said.

Mutharika said the party calm and would not be involved in violence even if provoked because they are confident of victory because they have learnt how to stop rigging.

“We have also made sure that no rigging takes place, I can assure all people that Malawi Congress Party is alert and we know what is happening and what other parties are planning to do. We are on the ground we are in the air. This time around to tell voters to go and vote because their vote is protected,” he said.

Publicity secretary for UTM Joseph Chidanti- Malunga, said since the party was formed 10 months ago, Malawians have had renewed hope and the party is confident of victory.

“We urge all Malawians to come up in large numbers to vote. We wish there could be 100 percent voter turnout but it is not always possible. But we know those who will vote will vote peacefully and wisely,” he said.

Atupele Muluzi

UDF publicity secretary, Ken Ndanga urged voters to ignore “illusions” of other political parties who are claiming victory before vote is cast.

“Our advice to the people is that they should ignore all messages that would discourage them from going to vote. A winner of elections is only announced after the elections and nobody should claim that they have already won,” he said.

Ndanga also appealed to Mec to be vigilant in addressing anomalies other than reclining and waiting for complaints.

“We are praying that Malawi Electoral Commission [Mec] should make sure that all transport arrangements are in place so that come time of voting, there should never be issues such as that there are no adequate material. People should vote on the 21st of May as per Constitution not the following day as was the case in 2014,” She said.

Mec has since assured Malawians of smooth elections and that voting will open at 6 o’clock in the morning and close at 6 o’clock in the evening.

“What is happening tomorrow [today] is the climax of five years of background work. It is very important that Malawians who registered to vote should take part to exercise their right to elect a government of their choice,” Mec chairperson Jane Ansah said.

There is no female candidate for presidential elections. In 2014, People’s Party’s Joyce Banda and Abusa Hellen Singh United Party were female candidates out of the 12 aspirants.

In 2014, DPP’s Mutharika won with 1,904, 399 votes representing 36 percent of votes, Chakwera of MCP came second with 1, 455, 880 votes which translated to 27.8 percent of votes People’s Party’s Banda was third after amassing 1,056, 236 representing 20.2 percent of votes while Muluzi finished fourth at 717, 224 votes, a percentage of 13.7.

In the last five general elections, a ruling has lost only twice.

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