LILONGWE — Malawi’s former opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in on Sunday as the southern African country’s new president after winning the rerun of a hotly disputed election.
It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for the incumbent Peter Mutharika, whose victory in a May 2019 ballot was overturned by the Constitutional Court over fraud allegations.
Chakwera, a former evangelist preacher, was declared the winner of the election replay held on Tuesday with almost 59 percent of the vote, according to results announced late Saturday.
Malawi is only the second African country south of the Sahara to have presidential poll results overturned in court, after Kenya in 2017.
And it is the first time in the region that a vote rerun has led to the defeat of an incumbent leader.
“I … do solemnly swear that I will well and truly perform the functions of the high office of the president of the Republic of Malawi and that I will preserve and defend the constitution,” the 65-year-old Chakwera said as he took his oath before thousands of supporters.
Opposition candidate Saulos Chilima was sworn in as vice president.
Mutharika, 79, has not yet commented on his defeat.
On Saturday, he had argued that the election rerun had been flawed, citing violence and intimidation against monitors.
The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) dismissed the allegations and said all complaints had been “resolved.”
But Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) called on the MEC to annul the results of the second vote and declare a third poll.
Political analysts told AFP they highly doubted the possibility of a second rerun.
Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga — who lost to the incumbent in the country’s 2017 vote rerun — was among several politicians to congratulate Chakwera.
I congratulate the people of Malawi on the successful and peaceful presidential election and incoming President Lazarus Chakwera on his impressive victory.
I commend the outgoing President Peter Mutharika for creating the environment for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.— Raila Odinga (@RailaOdinga) June 28, 2020
“I commend the outgoing president Peter Mutharika for creating the environment for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” Odinga tweeted.
“The election was followed keenly beyond Malawi and is a symbol of hope for those who support democracy in Africa and around the world.”
Some celebrations began Thursday night when Malawi’s state broadcaster reported that Chakwera was well ahead with all votes in.