|Tension as Muluzi leads
by Kondwani Chirambo
BLANTYRE, 18 June 1999
Armed police have been deployed in Malawis commercial capital following incidents of unrest amongst opposition supporters as unofficial results showed the incumbent, President Bakili Muluzi leading in the presidential race.
Ecstatic United Democratic Front (UDF) supporters lit up the streets of Blantyre Thursday night, hooting, singing and waving yellow flags-colors of
the ruling party. Security forces had to fire warning shots in the air to disperse what was becoming a rowdy ensemble.
This morning (Friday), scores of Malawi Congress party (MCP) and Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) supporters stoned vehicles outside the High court
where the opposition was pursuing a court injunction to restrain the Electoral Commission from announcing the results of the poll today until
alleged irregularities are addressed.
The premature legal challenge was however withdrawn early Friday morning by opposition lawyers, to be resuscitated after the announcement of the results. MCP and AFORD claim there has been massive fraud with extra ballot papers allegedly being found amongst UDF supporters in at least three districts.
The MCP and AFORD forged an alliance at presidential level which, on paper, gave them an advantage over the ruling UDF. Gwanda Chakuamba, leader of MCP, is contesting the presidency with AFORDs Chihana as his running mate.
Tensions are running high in Blantyre but the situation is largely under control. Unofficial results show Muluzi leading the presidential race by more than 350,000 votes. His total tally by late Thursday night was 2.4 million votes against his nearest rival Gwanda Chakuambas 2 million.
In the parliamentary polls however, the combined opposition is marginally superior to UDFs tally. MCP had by late Thursday night taken 66 seats.
AFORD 29 with four other seats falling to independents. UDF so far has 93 seats to its credit, according to unverified results released by the Electoral Commission. There are 193 Parliamentary seats at stake. The verified results will be announced Friday evening, according to electoral officials, and might change the overall picture.
The Commission will stand in breach of the constitution should it fail to release official results by midnight Friday. The constitution provides for
up to 72 hours for all results to be announced but logistical headaches slowed down the process. Over-time efforts by commissioners brought in more than 50 percent of the results last night with two districts yet to submit.
Legal experts say the post election period is bound to be punctuated by intense court battles. Already, results in Phalombe district in the southern
region are being disputed.
Chief Electoral Officer Roosevelt Gondwe said the Electoral Commission was investigating the case. The total number of voters was reported to be higher than the figure of registered voters. The Commission said it would verify the reports and update the public.
Nearly 5 million Malawians went to the polls 15 June, in the southern African countrys second pluralist elections. Malawi adopted a multiparty
system of government in 1994 after 31 years of iron-fisted one-party rule under the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.