“I’m so happy I could dance all night,” Chakwera, former leader of the Malawi Assemblies of God church, told reporters. “This is a win for Malawians, a win for democracy.”
Malawi’s drama was just the second time in Africa that a court has overturned a presidential election, following a ruling on Kenya’s vote in 2017. In Kenya’s fresh election, the president won while the opposition boycotted.
As Malawi prepared for its new vote, incumbent vice-president Saulos Chilima, who split last year’s results with Chakwera, decided instead to stand as his running mate in a bid to maximise chances of unseating Mutharika.
Some celebrations began Thursday night when Malawi’s state broadcaster reported that Chakwera was well ahead with all votes in. But the electoral commission, revamped since the court’s ruling, indicated it was taking time to meet legal requirements in verifying results.
The commission’s new chair, judge Chifundo Kachale, while announcing the results acknowledged that “it has been a very interesting journey.” He said turnout was 64 per cent of 6.8 million registered voters.
An attempt by Mutharika’s government to get Malawi’s chief justice to step down just days before the new election had failed amid an outcry. Now the chief justice is expected to swear in Chakwera on Sunday.
Aware that time was running out, the 79-year-old Mutharika on Saturday asked the country to “move on peacefully” and respect the presidency.